Cotton Jones

Paranoid Cocoon

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    8
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Cumberland, MD-based singer/songwriter Michael Nau's first full-length project since placing indie darlings Page France on semi-permanent vacation in 2007 trades much of his previous incarnation's quirky pop leanings for a darker, weepy, reverb-drenched blend of Pacific Northwest, 1960s folk-pop, and Wilco-inspired heartland rock. If Will Oldham had gone the way of "Moondance"-era Van Morrison instead of the Grateful Dead for his metamorphosis into Bonnie "Prince" Billy, it may have sounded something like Cotton Jones' debut long-player. Nau and fellow Page France expatriate Whitney McGraw drape their plain, heartfelt voices around Paranoid Cocoon's ten tracks like a quilt on a smoldering fire, rendering each into a languid curl of smoke that practically begs for a gray, rainy morning, multiple cups of coffee, and a carton of smokes. The instrumentation is sparse, but the cathedral atmosphere keeps each note fluid -- songs like "Some Strange Rain" and "Photo Summerlude" sound exactly as their names would suggest -- even when the tempo takes the cruise control off, as is the case with opening cut "Up a Tree (Went This Heart I Have)" and the Donovan-esque, Haight-Ashbury rocker "Little Ashtray in the Sun." Paranoid Cocoon establishes its sound early, so anybody initially put off by all of the cloudy skies and soft, neo-psychedelic mountain melancholy will inevitably come away disappointed, but fans of James Yorkston, Richard Hawley, M. Ward, and mild hangovers will eat this up, and rightly so.

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