Portland singer-songwriter searches for fulfillment in the face of abandonment
Laura Veirs seems as if she was designed in a lab by scientists intent on creating a singer-songwriter. Veirs hails from Portland, Oregon, she frequents poetry competitions and dives deeply into folk and alternative country. One of the biggest bright spots of her career came in 2013 where Veirs joined a “folk supergroup” with Neko Case and k.d. Lang. Together the trio released a 2016 album that resulted in monstrous sales and a tour. Over the years, she has compiled an impressive résumé performing with musical legends and putting out great album after great album. Her newest record, My Echo, is what she called her “my-songs-knew-I-was-getting-divorced-before-I-did” album. Exploring faith in sorrow, romantic loss and the search for fulfillment, My Echo is an incredibly strong record that should be acclaimed for its lyricism, instrumentation and overall feel.
“Freedom Feeling” is the first track on the record and her most popular to date. Beginning with a solemn electric guitar, Veirs gives listeners her current state of mind. She speaks on trying to find a love that gives her “freedom.” The song then opens up to more guitars, strings and drums. The narrator then mentions that she “does not know where [she’s] going,” adding to the rambling feeling of the song. “Freedom Feeling” has a way of showing the sorrow yet liberty in a lifestyle of searching, just through its instrumentation.
My Echo continues with the second most popular track on the album, a light reflection on the state of the world, “Another Space and Time.” With breathy notes, subtle strings and a hint of the Spanish instrument claves, this particular song would not be out of place to hear at a Starbucks. Veirs laments on “another space and time” and sings, “California’d stop burning and the seas don’t rise.” Always hopeful, yet never successful, the narrator continues this journey of searching for something to fulfill her. She optimistically tries to find her “peace of mind.”
Another interesting song on this album comes in the fifth one, “End Times.” A beautiful piano ballad, it begins with: “when I think of the end times, you come to mind.” She then continues with line after line that seems crafted perfectly lyrically. For example, she depicts these so-called “end times” when she says, “And the forest fires burn, and our shoes melt away I’ll feel the cooling April winds of your song inside my brain…I’ll be thinking of your hands and all the times they held my face.” The power in her lines comes in the nature of the rapture. When everything is ending, this narrator’s only thought is this love that she had. This song represents the flash of one’s life before their eyes before death, and this is why this track was arguably the most powerful on the album.
Immediately after this solely-piano piece, Veirs kicks it up and comes in with distorted drums, keyboards and guitars in “Burn Too Bright.” Vaguely reminiscent of a Lana Del Ray turned country, this track makes stops at most of the major genres weaving them together seamlessly. The end of this track features something that is virtually non-existent in all the other songs on the album. The last minute-and-a-half is a complicated instrumental section complete with synths, drums, piano and strings. Though not the best song on the album, it is absolutely interesting enough to go check out.
Veirs concludes the album with “Vapor Trails.” Equally as beautiful, light and reflective as all the other tracks on the album, this track is the only one with a feature registered to it: My Morning Jacket guitarist Jim James. In this song, Veirs speaks on her lover being a “vapor trail, and you burn white-hot.” Listeners have seen this narrator on a search for something throughout the album, and it seems as if she may have found it in this final song. With her lyrics seeming fulfilled in love, with the addition of Jim James singing along with her, all signs point to the narrator finally discovering what she wanted. This song is a great bookend for the album.
Veirs has shown time and time again that she is capable of fantastic music that is built to be listened to as an entire project. Though not technically dubbed a “concept album,” because of the state of her marriage and Veirs’s common theme, her search for fulfillment is a concept in itself, making My Echo that much more impressive.