SHANNON LAY: LIVING WATER

September 18th, 2017 | Album reviews

SHANNON LAY
Living Water
Mare / WOODSIST

Living Water, the new solo LP from Feels guitarist Shannon Lay, evokes the sun-stippled, melody-drenched folk-pop of Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins without ever seeming anachronistic. As its title suggests, Living Water is a fluid and spacious record, opting for sparse, dynamic arrangements that contrast heavily with Feels’ fuzzy punk. This makes the details that much sweeter—the squealing violin on opening track “Home” alternates between complimenting and sparring with Lay’s vocal melody, while the lite-shred of “Coast” alludes to a chaos bubbling beneath the poppy surface. Lay’s sudden and sly detours into weirdness bring to mind Nick Drake—a major touchstone for every singer-songwriter-ly fingerpicker, no doubt, but an artist who rarely makes it into the RIYLs. Like Drake’s Pink Moon, Living Water’s best songs are the most intimate ones: The sub-2 minute vignette “Orange Tree” and low-key “Landslide” crib “Always Room” expertly showcase Lay’s elastic melodic sense, while “The Moons Detriment” sees the songwriter nearly best her influences. Despite being 14 tracks long and almost entirely acoustic, Living Water is never repetitive. You don’t need bells and whistles when the songs are this good.

—Morgan Troper

SHANNON LAY’S LIVING WATER IS OUT FRI., SEPT. 22, ON MARE/WOODSIST.