Earlier this year, Beck released the excellent Morning Phase, a low-key, melodic album that examined the human condition in all its forms. The album has been applauded and acclaimed for its simplicity yet stunning craftsmanship, taking hush notes and textures to create an atmospheric vibe. If there is to be an addendum to Beck’s 12th studio album, Orenda Fink’s Blue Dream would be that record.
Whereas Morning Phase was gorgeous in its sound, Blue Dream is hauntingly and startlingly beautiful. It is an album that shows an immense amount of restraint, where Fink’s vocals never bellow or rise several registers and there are no elongated guitar jams. Instead, like Beck’s album, Blue Dream is based on maximizing every note and every refrain. The attention to detail on the album is terrific, which can be attributed in large part to the work of producers Ben Brodin and Todd Fink (The Faint).
Throughout the album’s ten tracks, Fink‘s voice rarely goes beyond a whisper, as if she is singing delicately into someone’s ear or in a quiet room where a secret is to be told. This is befitting of the album’s central theme, that of love – from the happiness it yields to the sorrow it can reap to the hope it gives. The slight drums, guitar, and keys complement Fink’s voice, giving depth to each song and building the intensity when needed. The first three songs, “Ace of Cups”, “You Can Be Loved”, and “This is Part of Something Greater”, meld voice and instrumentation brilliantly, resulting in dreamy numbers with dark edges.
“Holy Holy” and “Poor Little Bear” are the most stripped down songs that are captivating and eerie because of their simplicity. On the other hand, “Sweet Disorder” might take your breath away with its slow build and near-euphoric climax. “Darkling” is a song made for that lonely Sunday night drive, one that takes you back in time and in thought and away from the chaos of everyday life. The album’s closer, “All Hearts Will Beat Again”, is optimistic about the future although one may be feeling pain and disappointment today. It’s the perfect ending, essentially acting as a compendium to the album.
Blue Dream may not bull you over like the electrifying blues rock of Benjamin Booker; the luxurious, re-inventive pop of Kimbra; or the sonic sounds of Jack White. Instead, in this day and age of auto-tune, driving synths, and electronic beats, the Alabama-born, Omaha-based Orenda Fink reminds us that simplicity and subtlety combined with emotive and contemplative lyrics can still result in a masterful album and one that will be applauded at the end of the year.
Blue Dream is out now on Saddle Creek. It can be purchased at Saddle Creek’s online store, iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon. Orenda Fink will be going on tour in September and October. Dates are provided in the photo below.
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