Weinland makes folk music. If that term has lost all meaning I’ll put it this way: The first sound we hear on the album is an acoustic guitar, which is followed in time by a cello, banjo, mandolin, dobro, and a handful of un-folky instruments I won’t list. However, unlike, say Iron & Wine’s latest, Weinland’s strength lies in the consistency in which it explores a genre and sound that won’t seem all that unfamiliar to anyone who’s been around the musical block a few times. There’s a strength in establishing a sound and theme on track one and carrying it through the entire album, slowly building on what’s already been revealed, and sticking with a melodic core.
“Folk lullaby” proves to be a good descriptor for Weinland’s music. There’s a strong sense of progression that the album gives as it occasionally lets its characteristically quiet songs stray from structured patterns and instead goes after something more suited to the image that the word “lullaby” conveys, that is, music that has its share of mountains and plateaus. The best case in point is the rambling, six-minute “Gold”, where the bandmates play around with the melody while hitting a series of ascendant points along the way that prove to be subtly thrilling around the fourth or fifth time you hear the song.
An atmosphere of sickness and disease manifested in mental illness is perhaps Weinland’s strongest thematic impression. “We’re half way home/When you turn on the radio/I feel alone/When you turn off the radio there is no where I can go/Maybe there’s someone else/Someone to take care of me so I don’t have to love myself” Shearer sings on the album’s best song, the near folk-rocker (replete with wicked banjo riffs!) “Sick as a Gun.”
There are some problems, however: La Lamentor is strong and cohesive but is somewhat lacking in the highlights department, and songwriter and vocalist James Adam Weinland Shearer’s (yes, I believe that’s his full name) voice can’t compare with, say, the powerful whisper of Sam Beam, although the more you get into the album the more the passion behind Shearer’s voice makes it quite unnecessary to iwish someone else was singing. La Lamentor surpasses its potential to be disposable by weaving its melodies together into a discernible mold—the result is an album that’s both refreshing and enchantingly cohesive.
Timothy Zila is a pop music critic for Patrol.
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