Laura Veirs - The Lookout - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Laura Veirs - The Lookout

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2018-04-13
Laura Veirs - The Lookout
Laura Veirs - The Lookout

Laura Veirs is at once unfathomably prolific and a stark perfectionist. When preparing The Lookout, her tenth solo studio album, she reportedly penned 117 new songs, only to boil them down into the twelve that appear on the final tracklist. Pulling from literary references and astute, personal observations, Veirs has spent the five years since her last album, 2013’s Warp and Weft, probing the world around her and challenging herself as both a writer and a performer. Here, she takes a surprisingly objective, socially conscious view of these divisive times and constructs a mysterious, shapeshifting gem of an album.

As Veirs weaves in textured layers of sound, the record plays like an intricate recipe. Beginning with a classic Americana base on “Margaret Sands,” she adds in an entrancing synthesizer pulse on “Everybody Needs You.” Then, Veirs keeps the electronica vibe going with “Seven Falls,” while tossing in some twangy steel guitar to taste. “Mountains of the Moon” marinades the concoction in a folksy chamber piece. By the time we get to the finished dish, album closer “Zozobra,” we are left with a stripped down confection that maintains distinct flavor notes of all the ingredients that were thrown into the mix.

Veirs’s husband and longtime collaborator Tucker Martine produced the album, and he knows precisely how to frame her pastoral, otherworldly tracks. Whether it's the delicate minimalism bursting forth with new life on “The Meadow” or the swirling chords and thunderous guitars of “The Canyon,” these are the ruminations of a devoted partnership that bleeds into every facet of their lives. Martine and Veirs deeply understand each other’s needs and experiences, and it works wonders for their shared efforts. The record becomes even more of a family affair when she enlists the vocals of her children on "Lightning Rod.

The Lookout carries its share of lament, but Veirs consistently pulls from an endearing optimism. Tracks like David Bowie tribute “Heavy Petals” and the celestial, bellowing “When It Grows Darker” offer much needed flashes of hope: “Look up above / There can be no doubt / When it grows darkest / The stars come out.” She understands the gravity of mourning, but that in no way dampens her perseverance, as we see on her stunning collaborations with Jim James (“The Canyon”) and Sufjan Stevens (“Watch Fire”).

Even in the midst of dark times, The Lookout is offered up as a balm. Laura Veirs doesn’t turn a blind eye to the turmoil, but she aims to provide a momentary comfort in spite of it. Exceeding her goal, Veirs has crafted one of her most affecting records, defending her title as one of contemporary music’s most reliable songwriters.

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