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Published on September 19th, 2019 | by voxx

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Shannon Lay – August

The Californian singer-songwriter provides soothing balm for troubled times…

It may be release-date serendipity, but the title of Shannon Lay’s latest solo album doesn’t refer to the month just gone – it’s actually a throwback to the August of 2017, the date the Californian packed in her day job and began pursuing music-making as a full-time career.

The move was presumably a nerve-wracking leap into the unknown, but that’s not a feeling readily detectable here. Instead, the dominant tone is one of overwhelming calm. Combing finger-picked guitar, sweet, gentle vocals and occasional swoops of saxophone and strings, August projects a mood that is blissful but measured, pretty but also in possession of a soothing plainness. With her bright orange hair and cropped fringe, Lay may look like the archetypal hipster on the album’s cover, but her style is decidedly un-zeitgeisty, mining the kind of traditional folk music that manages to sound both ancient and earthy.

In a different sense, however, August is very clearly about stepping into the abyss – only this void is characterised by freedom rather than emptiness. Opener ‘Death Up Close’ luxuriates in a vague but liberating sense of possibility, ‘Nowhere’ extols the virtues of aimlessness, while ‘Shuffling Stoned’ circles around the line, “What is your name, does it matter?”.

Coupled with the tranquillity of Lay’s sonics, it’s a perspective that leaves August feeling like an antidote to the frantic achievement culture that plagues modern life. In other words, it’s a seductive, refreshing but gratifyingly purposeless ride.

- By Jake White


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