Little Big Town

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Nightfall Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Nightfall, the ninth album from Little Big Town, takes its title from a shimmering piece of soft-focus pop that effortlessly evokes Fleetwood Mac at the twilight of the 1980s. The hooks, harmonies, and aural sumptuousness of late-period Mac have long been a touchstone for Little Big Town, yet this sound is merely a connective thread on an album that finds the quartet settling into a subdued but not necessarily settled middle age. Making a break from Jay Joyce, the producer who has largely helmed their records since 2012's platinum Tornado, the four made Nightfall on their own, whittling its 13 tracks down from over 30 completed songs. The labor is evident, particularly in the careful construction of the compositions and the subtle shading on individual tracks. Such concentrated attention to discrete moments can result in a touch of thematic incoherence -- the rowdy Mexicali-flavored drinking anthem "Wine, Beer, Whiskey" follows the lament "Over Drinking" -- but the album overall has a keenly ruminative vibe that's not far removed from "The Daughters," Nightfall's lead single that happened to snag a Grammy nomination prior to the record's January 2020 release. The hushed atmosphere isn't monotonous: not only is there room for the aforementioned goofy "Wine, Beer, Whiskey," "Forever and a Night" builds to a gospel crescendo, "Bluebird" is breezy and gentle, and "Sugar Coat" offers a dose of measured majestic melodrama. Perhaps these distinctions are understated but they're nevertheless felt and help give Nightfall a delicate richness; it's music for meditative mornings or for afternoons in need of a dose of consolation and comfort.

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