There have been a few albums that truly have collectively bowled us over on first listen. Viet Cong’s eponymous album was cathartic yet a deeply, emotionally charged album. Annalibera’s Nevermind I Love You was lush, elegant, and breathtaking. Sarah Bethe Nelson’s Fast-Moving Clouds was introspective and retrospective, offering a glimpse into the experiences of her life that shaped her. Tame Impala mesmerized with Currents, as Kevin Parker imaginatively combined psychedelia, disco, pop, and even touches of pop. Gabrielle Smith – a.k.a. Eskimeaux – on OK released one of the most complex yet brilliant albums of the year.
Another one to add to this exclusive list is Reservations. On their sophomore full-length, Taking Time, the Austin-based trio have created an album that is absolutely stunning. It is an album that one immediately becomes emotionally attached to due to the deep and poignant lyrics of twenty-something Jana Horn and the brooding, indie rock hum provided by bandmates Paul Price and Jason Baczynski. The sound, the approach, and the power of the album is reminiscent of Sharon Van Etten‘s breakthrough and spectacular Tramp.
A listen to the first two releases – “Planet” and “To Be Honest” – reveals the breathtaking music of Reservations. The former is lush, haunting, and spatial to match Horn’s storytelling of a visitor to Earth and contemplation of her place on the planet. The latter is a crushing song of love and heartbreak, which would be perfectly set alongside Van Etten’s “Love More”. But the dream-folk sound recalls New Zealand’s French for Rabbits and their brilliant ethereal landscapes. “The Way It All Started” and “Blame Me” adopt similar approaches, but they are more upbeat and even body swaying. The former is arguably the album’s most hopeful track. However, “Blame Me”, despite the more upbeat tone, is mournful and even depressing lyrically, as Horn speaks of the confusion and pain of a broken heart.
On the more upbeat and midtempo tracks, Reservations still retain the captivating sound. “I Don’t Mind” is a splendid number that might be the album’s most thrilling. With the hum of an organ and a couple of hallow guitar solos, the song’s mood matches the protagonist’s new found freedom that Horn sings about. “I Can Hear Us” is a gorgeous track for its complexity. Wrapped around a crystalline guitar in the background, the introduction of horns, and a midtempo pace, the song borders between brooding and enrapturing. It music creates the setting for the feelings of confusion, lost, and hope sung by Horn.
The beautiful and dreamy “Some City” and the album’s wonderful closer “Walking, Night” echo of Mazzy Starr with their more stripped down approach. On both tracks, Horn’s voice rises above the music to create a romantic and angelic quality. Meanwhile, “I’ve Been Trying Not to Feel It” is the hidden gem of the album. It starts off as a calm, folk-rock tune before building into a harder and more resounding sound. It’s one part Mazzy Starr and one part Sharon Van Etten. It’s absolutely brilliant.
And brilliant would be another way to describe Reservations‘ Taking Time. Like Hope Sandoval and Sharon Van Etten as well as Aly Spaltro (Lady Lamb) and Angel Olsen, Horn is able to share a multitude of stories that resonate personally with the listener. They’re not just stories about Horn’s experiences, but also those of people around her. And yet, you feel like you are part of the song or that the song is about you, a rare gift possessed by some of the truly great songwriters. But the stories cannot be told without a framework, and the musical talents of Price and Baczynski provide the paper and ink for Horn. Together, the three have created something truly special, positioning Reservations to be among 2015’s breakout stars.
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