Published Aug 20, 2019August is a hypnotic, assured new album from Shannon Lay, whose laidback creativity shines in simple yet surprising ways throughout.
August is at its best when it locks into moments of relaxed momentum, buoyed by gently driving, repetitive instrumentals ("Nowhere," "August"). Lay also strikes a good balance between encouraging listeners to slow down and enjoy the journey, and not overstaying a song's welcome. Most songs are less than three minutes (there's a hazy, lovely little moment captured in "Shuffling Stoned"). This flow carries the album nicely, only occasionally loosening/
There is a simmering sense of joy and positivity throughout, even while the lyrical content often remains affectingly bittersweet. Lay's voice is soft and lovely, and her vocals are more meandering than melodic. But her voice also carries an unpretentious gravitas that helps to ground the album.
Despite its meditative aspects, August is hardly predictable. Lay makes unusual choices in some places – playing with tempo, dynamics and instrumentals – which stand out all the more against her relatively stripped-back sound and pay off in interesting ways.
In keeping with folk tradition, Lay nods to her influences ("November" is for Nick Drake, and there's a beautiful cover of "Something on Your Mind" by Karen Dalton). She also quietly, resolutely forges her own path. (Sub Pop)