Rebecca Blasband triumphantly returns to primetime with her new album Here, and just one listen to it’s opening salvo “Love Is” will confirm what her most loyal fans have long hoped for – that the singer/songwriter would one day revive the sound of her classic album RAPT and give it a beautiful 21st century polish. “Love Is” plods along slowly but leaves a wickedly charismatic sensuousness in its wake. The first thing that we notice is how sparkling the instrumentation is, despite the grungy, unrestrained arrangement it’s straddling. The indulgent energy of this song is tapered in “Fool’s Heaven,” but as we press on there’s no denying that Here is Blasband’s most endearing and contrasting record yet.
The title track putters into existence on the strength of a flexible groove that dives straight into jazz theory just before we hit the chorus. “Walking on Water” is a bit more claustrophobically mixed, but it makes the harmony between Blasband and the acoustic guitar strumming so much more affective. There’s bitterness in her voice, but the lyrics are unchained sweet nothings delivered in a chillingly soft tone. “Who the Hell is Peter Brown?” bolsters the blues facet in her rock n’ roll influences to the center of our attention, but stops just short of employing predictable 12-bar nattering. Again, the verses go against the grain of the grooves, but the juxtaposition of the two is opulent and enticing. There’s no way to guess where Blasband will take us next in this LP, but we aren’t scared – on the contrary, I found myself quite thrilled.
1960s flower pop penetrates the crux of “Those Happy Days” and lingers into the poetic “Ghost Song,” which punches us in the stomach sonically despite its bare bones compositional structure. The intro to “Way of the World” is as haunting as a deserted town in the middle of the rural countryside, but it doesn’t try especially hard to make us feel out of sorts. The kaleidoscopic melodies really start to blossom in “Gotta Work It Out,” which towers over the end of the record like a skyscraper. Even when Blasband encounters electric riffing, her music still feels undeniably pastoral and folkie. Perhaps it’s her earthy mentality, or maybe it’s just her lyrical personality (the centerpiece of the album), but in any case it makes this rock record one of the more unique releases cut this autumn.
“Target” aims its siren-accompanied strings right at us as we slide into its spacey rhythm, but it’s true purpose is to prime us for “Long Distance Love Affair,” the final track and undisputed climax of Here. “Long Distance Love Affair” breaks out of its shell courtesy of a hard acoustic guitar foray into its melody, which is as ghostly as a floating apparition. Rebecca Blasband recoils from the gut-wrenching emotion of the harmony, but she doesn’t depart from our view totally. As her vocals fade away and the album finally comes to a peaceful conclusion, there’s not a doubt in our minds that we’ve just listened to a set of songs that are as personal as they are provocative. Listeners who endured the long wait will not be disappointed by Rebecca Blasband’s much-discussed new album, and those who are just now discovering her sound for the first time will be in awe of her unparalleled skillset and the awesome sound that it yields.