October 22, 2021

Grouper - "Kelso (Blue sky)"

Today, Liz Harris has released her first album under her Grouper moniker since 2018 and the last track is an absolute standout and one of her brightest moments on record.

Every Grouper album seems to transcend reality and bring us to a new world. Liz Harris has become an expert at crafting minimal, ambient music that feels like soundtracks to lucid dreams. Her songs are generally reserved, using acoustic guitars and delicate piano to move songs forward with her hushed, whispered vocals buried deep into the mix. In 2014, she released Ruins which was billed as her "acoustic" record, although almost everything she releases is centered around an acoustic guitar. Still, each album also feels distinctly its own and Ruins helped prove that point. Shade is another excellent Grouper record and one that brings us back to her darker tones and scratchy, strumming rhythms that we haven't heard with such reverence since Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill. It's also another record that adds a new chapter in her radiant discography. The most striking moment on the album, however, doesn't come until the every end. It's the album's closer "Kelso (Blue sky)" where instantly we're greeted by lush, direct vocals that are lifted to the forefront of the song. We're rarely treated to Harris' vocals in the spotlight with rather distinguishable lyrics and her illuminating, gorgeous voice feels like a new gift. The plucking guitar strings are also very prominent and as she moves her fingers up and down the fret board, we can hear them brush against the strings, giving more texture to the track. It feels so intimate and direct. Occasionally the hoots of an owl can be heard in the background as well adding even more charm and beauty to an already exquisite track. Grouper can be known for dark music that feels almost nocturnal, but "Kelso (Blue sky)" feels like a direct contrast (not just due to the name). It's a Grouper song to the core and the highlight of the new album, but it's also a glowing gem in an already brilliant career.

Shade is out now via Kranky.

No comments: