July Flame, Laura Veirs’ seventh album, is soaked with summer melodies and neatly stacked, lightweight arrangements. Veirs sculpts playful ditties and soulful ballads that breeze by with a comfortable whimsy. Her bouncy ode to an underappreciated bassist on “Carol Kaye” (who worked with the Beach Boys and Phil Spector among many, many others) is light-hearted and enlightening. Veirs’ lyrics instantly draw you in like a friend presenting a mixtape or reciting some little known trivia that’s been deliberately committed to memory in an effort to illuminate the uninitiated, as the opening line spills out, sketching a portrait of a revered musician: “She can really play it, she can really lay it down.”
“Make Something Good” is a captivating ballad that straightforwardly presents Veirs’ artistic desires with admirable honesty. Aided by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, the song becomes more than a duet as fleeting strings and darting pianos give way to Veirs’ and James’ complementary vocal approaches. The whispery electric guitars of “July Flame” coalesce with pounding percussion to propel Veirs’ voice into the stratosphere. The song quickly establishes itself as a highlight when she repeatedly asks, “Can I call you mine” over the patchwork of synths, feedback and steady guitars. “Life is Good Blues” is deceptively positive as Veirs recounts a night spent drenched in beautiful music: “Life is good when you dance all night and the world transmits electric power.”
“Where Are You Driving?” and the twisty, string-propelled “Wide-Eyed, Legless” find Veirs’ in undeniably powerful folk-rock form, her voice strung up over bare compositions that explode into Technicolor choruses. And her tendency to record from the comfort of her own home results in a warm, comfortable vibe that permeates every instrument while pleasantly side-stepping the current trend to emphasize the lo-fi-ness of home recording itself. July Flame finds the perfect sanctuary for Veirs’ observant, sweet songwriting style by keeping the compositions airy and utilizing lush string arrangements to fully exploit the inherent joy bursting forth in each song.
Favorite Track: “Where Are You Driving?”
Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at www.myspace.com/wastedpotentialproduction and a production company at (www.wastedpotentialproductions.com) for freelance film, video and journalism work.