One of the founding member of Azure Ray and a frequent collaborator with multiple bands associated with the Saddle Creek Records scene, Orenda Fink carves out a special, less frequently visited space for her solo material. Blue Dream, Fink's third solo album and first since 2009's Ask the Night, tends toward dark and drifty ethereality, with lush dream pop arrangements brought to life by Fink's opulent vocals. Fink went in a slightly more synth-friendly direction with her solo work than the indie chamber folk of Azure Ray and the solo work of her partner in that band, Maria Taylor. Still rooted in organic arrangements, Fink's work takes on a more menacing, atmospheric quality on tunes like the "This Is a Part of Something Greater," a brooding meditation on death. Much of the album focuses on cryptic explorations of death, as the songs were inspired by the death of Fink's aged and much beloved dog, and the strange dreams that came to her in the wake of that sad event. Even the slow-burning album opening single, "Ace of Cups," twists its slinky, catchy electric piano grooves around a melody so tense it feels like storm clouds gathering on the horizon. The more devotional "You Are a Mystery" comes on with a feeling of traditional folk brightness at first, but the ghostly wail of singing saw and walls of multi-tracked vocals calling out to a lost angel watching down from heaven quickly take the song from simple balladry into a somewhat spooky expression of lost emotions. Likewise, "Sweet Disorder" molds harrowing lyrics of exhaustion and pain to fit a lovely, slow-blooming mixture of arpeggiated guitars and crystalline vocal harmonies. Fink's ability to make these uneasy feelings still crackle with sharp beauty and lush presentation is what defines Blue Dream. Though inspired by death, woozy dreams, and other various states of upset, the album spills out from a center of complete calm and silent clarity.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas