Literate folk-inflected indie rocker Laura Veirs' third record is full of enough emotional peaks and valleys to satisfy even the most temperamental music fan. Upon first listen, Saltbreakers feels significantly less chilly than 2005's sparse Year of Meteors, but further spins reveal a dark core that radiates warmth only intermittently. Part of this can be attributed to Veirs' masterful way with imagery, a talent that she employs incrementally with each and every release. A native of the Northwest, water, especially of the oceanic variety, tends to creep its way into each song, leaving soggy footprints that zigzag their way through the listeners' head until the very last note. Relationships both new and retired cast a long shadow, especially on the first three cuts -- the simple, fingerpicked guitar and languid viola on the superb "Ocean Night Song" season the lyric "I wonder 'bout the herds of the sea/If they will hurt or if they will help me" with expertly measured melancholia. However, it's not all introspection and hand wringing, as evidenced by the rousing and impossibly hooky title cut (it's a veritable singalong), the marriage of Bill Frisell's signature guitar tone with a full choir on the gorgeous "To the Country," and the hard-driving "Phantom Mountain," all of which paint an artist who continues to expand her sonic vocabulary, even as she revels in what's worked successfully for her in the past.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger