The debut from Brian Collins arrives faded by the sun, a worn-in world of late afternoon shuffle that’s just a bit hazy from the full-bore UV-bake of 3pm rays. The album feels West Coast in a very real and tangible way. There’s no rush, no urgent angle to the songs. From needle in to needle out the record breezes through the air just below the threshold of sweat. The guitars twang just right — a touch of bend on the strings, a whisper of slide. The record feels like it was made for the moment and just happened to get caught up on the tape like a private press session from from the late ‘70s – a touch out of time and even more so once its locked in the time-capsule for a few more decades. When it emerges, though, the air is still rarefied and warm. The streaks from the blinds have imprinted themselves on each note and the private becomes parcel to the masses once more. Out of time becomes timeless and we’re all the better for it.
Like so many before him, Collins trades in melancholy and he wields it well. Between the soft rambles and mournful slides, Hurt Valley lives up to its name, weaving tales of humility, loss, and regret. The album closes with Collins’ musing on building worlds out of lies and holding tight to their boundaries. It’s a beautiful send off for the album, itself an ode to those same “immaterial worlds.” Late year releases have a way of getting lost, but Hurt Valley seems like it might search out that status even if we weren’t careening into December. My advice is to hold onto this one and not let it slip away into the sun. Squint hard and you’ll find the thread. Pull it and you’ll be led into the Valley for a good bask in the sun.
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