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A veteran of in-your-face garage rock bands – LA’s Feels, Ty Segall’s Freedom Band – Shannon Lay solo has done a full 180 from her previous sonic incarnations. Lay garnered rapt attention for August, her hushed folk album of 2019. With Geist, her fifth overall, she has returned with a set of songs even more assured and contemplative.
This is no mere indie-folk musician foregrounding a stripped-back aesthetic. Lay’s voice may often be sun-dazzled and multitracked, but it is also confident, privileging harmonics and atmosphere over DIY spit and sawdust. The instrumentation swirling around her is both lush and reserved, with countermelodies and subtle organ rubbing up against Lay’s finger-picking on the standout single Rare to Wake. The liner notes credit the keyboard player as a “dimension revealer”. Likewise, the more these quietly elegant songs play out, the more intricacies they reveal.
There are thematic pushes and pulls throughout, with Lay querying the value of forward motion – sometimes intrinsic to personal growth, but not always – and stillness (also in itself transformative). Sure celebrates the finding of love, and a cover of Syd Barrett’s Late Night reminds you of the breadth of the references behind Lay’s artistry.