Artful, dreamy experimentation
Unexpected returns are hard to pull off. For indie folk trio Loma, however, the landing couldn’t have been smoother. Don’t Shy Away, the band’s sophomore album, is a graceful, effortlessly cinematic return to form that will captivate indie and alternative enthusiasts of all varieties.
That said, Don’t Shy Away wasn’t always planned, at least not at first. After touring following the meteoric success of their self-titled debut album, Loma contentedly disbanded, its members going their separate ways. Lead singer Emily Cross worked on a solo record and visual art and transitioned into a career as a death doula–a person who provides non-medical care, counsel and companionship to people near death. Though her bandmates Jonathan Meiburg and Dan Duszynski had also switched focus to their own projects, it wasn’t long before the trio inexorably reunited.
Loma’s second album is cinematic yet personal, ambitious yet carefree. Cross, Meiburg and Duszynski experiment both sonically and visually across the album, with more than half the songs on Don’t Shy Away accompanied by artsy, minimalist lyric videos. Low-budget yet endearing, Loma’s videos are visually striking and surprisingly immersive.
When it comes to pairing auditory and visual art, Loma clearly know what they’re doing. The video for “Ocotillo,” for example, is just as atmospheric and slow-building as the song itself. Complemented by understated yet elegant footage of a Southwest road trip, the track’s gradual crescendo and diverse instrumentation will create an out-of-body experience for many listeners. Meanwhile, Loma had an unmistakably great time filming the video for “Half Silences.” With standout vocals from Cross and a rhythm section that ebbs and flows hypnotically, “Half Silences” is undoubtedly one of the album’s best songs. The video features Cross, Meiburg and Duszynski stoically dancing and singing in an open field with flashing, colorful lights illuminating the night around them. While it can often be hard to take them completely seriously, the trio is clearly enjoying themselves, making the videos even more endearing.
Across Don’t Shy Away, Loma showcases a penchant for experimentation. “Thorn” blends a spoken word intro with a melancholy atmosphere and somnolent, detached vocals, becoming unexpectedly mystical in the process. Later, “Blue Rainbow” quickens the tempo and enthralls listeners with an air of foreboding surrealism. “Homing,” which was produced by the one and only Brian Eno, is a harmonious, transcendental closing track for the album.
Though many listeners will find Don’t Shy Away enjoyable in its experimental, serene artfulness, it’s not an experience that will appeal to everyone. Loma’s music builds slowly and rarely picks up in tempo–some fans will luxuriate in the album’s deliberate pacing, while others will likely fall asleep. All in all, Don’t Shy Away is gracefully immersive, aesthetically ambitious and more than worth a listen.