Indie rock’s suburban conventionalism
Shannon Lay’s August drips slowly, then all at once with lyrical tears. Lay’s iridescent orange hair resembles just how bold her personality is. Shannon Lay is sure of herself, without the necessity for any external validation. Although occasionally highlighted by rugged chords, Lay’s music is undeniably soft despite her seemingly hard edges.
August unravels with intro track “Death Up Close” as Shannon Lay traces the hardships of life with poetic confrontation. Reeling in some extra anticipation for the album, Lay released the intro track on August 8th explaining, “with that song, I wanted to recognize that everyone else is going through something and reflect on that. Don’t be so close-minded to think you’re the only one who’s got issues, in fact, find comfort in the thought that everyone is on their own journey. I had this idea of the violin ascending. Then Mikal Cronin came in with the saxophone and just blew me away. I love the idea of building a song like that, take people by surprise.” It’s her first album with Sub Pop Records, and she has plenty of time to curate her folk sound to be more sophisticated and lyrically driven. Lay weaves together slippery melodies with her countryside-sounding acoustic guitar in “November” simply for your month’s soundtrack. The album is colorful with calculated duress and superficial harmonies that ring like a dreamless sleep.
August is the suburban conventionalism of indie music but without fail Shannon Lay masters the effortless sound that we all savor. Towards the album close, “Something On Your Mind” plays tenderly on listeners’ hearts as Lay welcomes us into her emotional headspace. Each of the twelve tracks soothes with solemn tunes but occasionally grows dull in time. Most tracks are under three minutes like short diary entries cataloged in the creative inventory of Lay’s mind – but these folk tales don’t always move you.
Finally, our taste is quenched when August comes to a whispering end in “The Dream” as Lay frills the edges of the album with subtle rhythmic exercises. August is impressionable and malleable in its meaning depending on who‘s listening. The album isn’t flimsy, but it is fragile like wet pottery — a kind of sculpted vulnerability. Yet, Lay’s refined lyrical anecdotes feel more relatable than not. She appeals to emotion rather than reason, which for some may be comforting, but the album lacks the nerve to be anything other than an art piece.