album of the week: Living Water - Shannon Lay
On Living Water, Shannon Lay, also known for her work in FEELS, peels back the curtain with a series of songs that play like brief, memorable vignettes. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, this latest solo offering from Lay glows in the warmth of its intimacy. Recorded by Emmet Kelly (Cairo Gang, Bonnie Prince Billy, Ty Segall) in his Los Angeles home studio, Lay manages to seemingly effortlessly convey the feelings of being seated beside her in that recording room, watching her nimbly navigate dreamy folk offerings that are emotional and subtly profound in their innocence.
Comparisons are oft made in music that one's songs can feel like diary entires, but Living Water encapsulates that feeling of discovery. It's as if we've opened a drawer, blown back the dust gathered on a notebook and are leafing through the pages of Lay's growth, musings and heartbreak. We're seated by candlelight, rapturous with attention to Lay's every word — from the somber, haunting tone set by opener "Living Water" to the playful mystery echoed in the Vashti Bunyan-esque "The Search for Gold". While her acoustic work sets the stage and mood of each track, it's Lay's vocals that hit direct to the heart. Whether crystal clear and etched in a huskiness like that of the glittering "The Moons Detriment" or whispery, but defiant on the strong brilliance of "Recording 15" Lay conveys her every desire and deepest secret with a simplicity that pulls at your heartstrings and forces you to feel alongside her.
We're invited in, permitted to hear each secret as Lay questions whether to forget someone and move on ("Recording 15") or wrestles with the ever-changing tides of life that are like a sea ("Caterpillar"). Living Water is one of the most stunning, moving pieces of music you'll hear — it's 14 tracks of whispered mystery and emotive folk that squeeze at every piece of your heart, pulling you to grow, question and challenge all that's happening around you with Lay to guide you as you listen.