One of my favorite debuts of last year was The Carrier from Large Plants. The band, essentially the solo output for Jack Sharp of Wolf People, carries on the band’s decidedly English brand of psychedelia. Recorded in the same country barn that birthed The Carrier, Sharp follows up with an extension of the sessions, moving away from the more muscular psychedelia of its predecessor for an album wrapped in mists, mystery, and damp melancholy. The Thorn couldn’t come at a better time, rising from the bogs in the bottom-half of November, embracing the barren chill as it begins to seep in to your bones. Reflecting the biker psych bravado of its cover, The Carrier was rife with riffs, though still doused in Sharp’s prog-dipped poison. If the first album was a tale of a modern marauder with his steel horse rumbling a lysergic pulse through the bloodstream, The Thorn is its Arthurian reflection in the oil slicked puddles below.
The prog thread rises quickly and holds tight to this one. Sharp’s leads curl like wood smoke through the thatch, burning with an acridness that permeates the senses. Sharp has spent years carving out the kind of mossen psych niche, but here there are a few touch points that seem notable. The album balances ferocity and fantasy in the way that obscurities like Day of Phoenix or Twink’s heady solo stint Think Pink once perfected. The Thorn winds deep into the heart of loner prog, phantom hooves pounding behind each song as the album wends on its quest through overcast odes and solos that glow like firelight embers. Leaving only ash and agony in its wake, the album is a dark cloud, but also a bright spot in the 2023 calendar. The more listens that wind around the listener, the more it feels as if The Carrier doesn’t exist without The Thorn. The albums are indispensable companions, born of the same solitude and reflecting two sides of Sharp’s psyche. This is the kind album that stave off list culture quick draw. Sometimes one of the year’s best creeps out as the hour draws to a close.
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