A combination of ‘60s girl group tropes, sweet melodies, and gorgeous lyrics about the female condition fuel this triumphant self-titled debut from the collaboration of Neko Case, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs. Tunes are sighed out, telling tales of seduction, failed relationships, pained moments of intimacy – each line and note lovelier than the last. Despite lyrics about jealousy, emotional disabilities, and introversion, the delicacy and sweetness with which each song is delivered allows this album to envelope the listener in a sort of hazy-July-night-catching-fireflies kind of feeling.
The album opens aptly with “Atomic Number” which takes the time to establish the three voices distinctly. k.d. lang croons “I’m not the freckled maid,” Veirs adds, “I’m not the fair haired girl,” and Case finishes with “I’m not a pail of milk for you to spoil.” On first hearing this, it seems that this album will continue in this polite and quirky fashion. However, most of the tracks are lined with sumptuous harmonies, which is surprising coming from three very well established solo artists. The harmonies come through often with 1960s R&B references, especially chantilly “oohs” and “aahs,” like on “Honey and Smoke,” which, with a glittering organ line, sounds like the actual sonic expression of honey and smoke. “Blue Fires” on the other hand features a more complex harmony line, with all voices blended in a mellow, sonorous tone. It’s melancholy but delivered so saccharine and ponderous – it romanticizes sadness as only these women can and have on past individual albums.
The album flows along smoothly, yet somehow each track is so diverse. A song like “Supermoon” is nothing like “Blue Fires,” with its strong bass line, the acoustic picking of trucking song, and hauntingly light vocals from Casee, it stands out yet seems perfectly snug in the album with the rest of the tracks. It’s hard to imagine these three women together in room, each so fiercely talented and successful in their own right, hashing out lyrics and melodies to songs. There is a fine balance maintained between the women’s signature elements, like Case’s indie-girl vibes (best on “Delirium” with big bells), lang’s deep vocals (“Honey and Smoke” is a MUST listen), and Veirs’ melancholy alt-country vibes (Veirs has a writing credit for every single track on this album). Supergroup is too splashy a term for what happened with case/lang/veirs. The name alone isn’t some trumped up new band borne out of combination of commercially successful stars, it’s just a trio of last names, reminiscent of greats like Crosby, Stills, and Nash or Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but the album itself is more than anything reminiscent of the excellence of Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt’s Trio albums in the 80s.
Needless to say, the implication of the name is great, but the talent and work brought forward are greater. Each song put forward is original work belonging to case/lang/veirs, the entity. This album is unassuming – it’s not about reviving a career, or retiring an artist, it’s just a communion effort by three distinct artists. This album shows a deep dedication to making something incredible in it’s own right, and not just because it happens to be the work of k.d. lang, Neko Case, and Laura Veirs (although that certainly doesn’t hurt).
Words: Haley Velletri