The last time we heard from Sera Cahoone, she was playing drums with her former Carissa's Wierd bandmates in Band of Horses, adding snare hits and cymbal crashes to songs that were meatier, louder, and altogether rockier than anything Carissa's Wierd ever created. Only as the Day Is Long finds her returning to her solo work, where gently strummed guitars and dark, solemn lyrics take precedence over volume and distortion. Life after Carissa's Weird has been kind to many of the band's former members, and Cahoone follows the path of her Carissa cohort Mat Brooke in creating music that's intimately warm and wistful. But while Brooke evokes the sunny sounds of California with the indie pop band Grand Archives, Cahoone retreats to a more isolated, somber place with her sophomore effort, spinning melancholic narratives with titles like "Shitty Hotel," "Happy When I'm Gone," and "The Colder the Air." Only as the Day Is Long is a straight-up alt-country album, a mix of bare-boned ballads and introspective songs peppered with pedal steel, Dobro, guitar, strings, and harmonies. Cahoone doesn't have a powerful Neko Case-sized voice, but her songs are often just as evocative, particularly when they receive the full atmospheric treatment from her backing band. Penning the songs herself and juggling several different instruments (including guitar, drums, and harmonica), she shows herself to be fully capable of completing an album like this on her own. Still, Cahoone's secret weapon is pedal steel player Jason Kardong, who stretches his aching, mournful riffs over her vocals like rain clouds. Only as the Day Is Long may be a quiet storm, but it's nonetheless a powerful one.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey