Posts Tagged ‘Mary Lattimore’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore

That Mary Lattimore and Meg Baird haven’t constantly crossed paths as collaborators is a bit of a conundrum. Both artists spent time in Philly’s verdant folk wave and both have found themselves circling a good cross section of the same musicians over the years. They’re both constant collaborators in general. Lattimore finds herself skewing to the experimental subset, appearing with Jeff Zeigler, Chris Forsyth, and Elysse Thebner. Baird on the other hand has leaned psychedelic, taking up posts in Espers and Heron Oblivion outside of her collaboration with her sister Laura. Now the fates have intervened and Baird’s effusive folk is married to the sympathetic strings of Lattimore’s harp. With voices billowing around the headspace in an otherworldly flow, Ghost Forests, it seems, is an apt title. The album rises out of the mists with an intangible softness – streaked by sunlight, tangled in the wind.

The pair weave subtext and nuance throughout the album, eschewing overt declarations for hazy perfection on a great many of the songs. While there are themes of nature and nations, art and anxiety even the most straightforward songs like “Painter of Tygers” or “Fair Annie” are still subsumed by a disorienting haze that renders every moment of the album beautifully serene. Its Lattimore’s harp that pulls the listener out of the maze each time, though. As with any of her own works or previous collaborations, Lattimore’s talent for adding a bittersweet sparkle to any track remains true. She’s a master of restraint, plucking and prodding songs along with a gilded touch that’s never busy, but always brilliant.

The record builds towards strength, with the first few tracks loping along quietly, doused in a morning serenity. By the time the pair lead the listeners to the closer, “Fair Annie,” the sun has almost burnt away the billow, leaving an ache of longing in its place. The duo’s first outing for Third Lobed immediately leaves the listener wanting more and hoping that this isn’t the last time the women grace each other’s presence.



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Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore – “Painter of Tygers”

Kindred spirits Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore have connected for a collaborative release that’s delicate and haunted. Anchored by the sun-squinted folk of Baird, the first track from the duo’s upcoming Ghost Forests lays a film of noise over Baird’s voice like dust on windows. Baird calls out from behind the din, slowly receding into the Kodachrome ache of time while Lattimore’s harp is upfront and present, sparkling in full color and framing the song’s heartache hues brilliantly. A true partnership elevates both songwriters and this pairing seems like such a natural extension of what both women have been cultivating in their own works that it feels like a band that’s been playing together for years bringing forth their best work. Keep an eye out for the album on Three Lobed this November.



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Mary Lattimore on Julee Cruise – Floating Into The Night

Next up on the dock for Hidden Gems is another favorite from this year. I caught Mary at Soundscape last year and her set was enigmatic in its depth and simplicity. She’s a master of using the harp to build emotive worlds and her latest record for Ghostly is one of the best records of 2018 for sure. I asked her to pick out a record that hadn’t gotten its due, a gem that despite merit doesn’t get fawned over as fervently as it should. She’s picked Julee Cruise’s debut LP, Floating Into The Night, a record that’s as much about atmosphere as it is about emotion. Seems like a perfect pairing to her own mastery of the same. While the record is forever associated with its most glaring TV and film associations, she tries to divorce it from its Lynchian moors and assess it on its own dreamy merits. Check out how the record came into her life and what impact its had on her own writing.

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Mary Lattimore

The harp has always had a precocious edge in contemporary music. But while the instrument is often used as a baroque folk accoutrement or as an ornamental touch on an otherwise fairly staid pop song, Lattimore uses the instrument to transport the listener to quiet pastoral hideaways perched on the edge of grand panoramic views. The harpist uses her chosen muse to combine classical sweep, subtle processing and field recordings to create crystalline worlds trapped in amber and nestled inside of rural hollows.

In some ways Hundreds of Days enters like a gorgeous minimal house perched on old farmland. The stark angles seem almost too crisp to touch, and though the bas relief cut against rolling hills and sparkling waters seem just slightly out of place with each other, its intended as an idyllic getaway. The problem being that the yoke of modernity is forced onto nature, dragging along the rigidity of city life with it. Hundreds of Days does in fact begin as a calm respite, a meditative retreat, but begins to skew just slightly off over time. As the album progresses that discord of the modern and the natural becomes more apparent, resulting in the warbles and darkening skies of “Baltic Birch.”

That song acts as a kind of break in the façade, the first drop into the water that sends ripples across the glass surface. Following the rationalization that there’s no forcing the two worlds together in harmony, the final track, unadorned and somber sweeps through like a sigh. Finally leaving behind the glass castle, this is where Lattimore communes with nature, faces mortality and finds peace. The record is nothing short of masterful and warrants a place on the list of modern composition high watermarks.



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Mary Lattimore – “Returned To Earth”

As anyone who’s seen harpist Mary Lattimore play can attest, she has a way of bringing a hush over a room, sucking out the atmosphere and replacing it with something a bit more magical and serene. On her latest tape for Soap Library, she offers up two shimmering tracks of crystalline beauty. The first, an ode to astronaut Scott Kelly, inspired by his year-long journey in the International Space Station and a subsequent jaw injury that required two months of silence and reflection on her part. The track’s quiet reflection mirrors much of Kelly’s own isolation aboard the station and his attempts to connect with the world below through an online journal. The second track sees Lattimore pair up with composer Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, whom she met while playing a festival in Marfa. The two set out to improvise a piece together and their innate ability to sculpt subtitles into aural sculptures has proven fruitful on the delicate “Borrego Springs”. Any release from Lattimore is worth the price of entry, and this one’s no exception, but its scant length really leaves the listener aching for more.

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