A lot has transpired in the four-year gap between Beauty Queen Sister and One Lost Day, the Indigo Girls' 14th studio album. Amy Ray issued two solo albums, and suddenly lost her father; both women became parents; and Emily Saliers got married. The rich and bittersweet life experiences detailed in these 13 songs will likely surprise longtime fans not because of the poignant content, but because of the way they sound. Saliers and Ray placed themselves in the care of producer and multi-instrumentalist (and unabashed longtime fan) Jordan Brooke Hamlin and mixing engineer Brian Joseph. Hamlin insisted on a lot of pre-production and practice. It pays off big time. Hamlin's sonic palette includes woodwinds, brass, strings, keyboards, loops, and ambient textural elements, woven in a rich but unobtrusive mix placed in service to the songs. Things kick off straightforwardly. The back-porch countryish rock of "Elizabeth" -- one of several excellent confessional lost-love songs here -- is in steady 4/4 with a choogling Crazy Horse vibe. But in the following "Happy in the Sorrow Key," written after Ray's father's passing, things get electric and eclectic. Rave-up guitars and drums clatter under staggered vocal harmonies. In the bridge, a wash of chamber strings frames her vocal as brass enters from the margin and the rhythm section rocks out underneath; one can hear a trace of Paul Weller's brand of soulful, baroque psych in the mix. The breezy "Southern California Is Your Girlfriend" is a broken love ballad played in a shuffle with harmonic guitars ringing in the backdrop and lots of space around the bright harmonies. "Olympia Inn" walks the line between indie, modern country, and Springsteen-esque rock & roll formalism with gorgeous Wurlitzer organ washes competing with chugging distorted guitars, a rumbling bassline, and a gritty lyric delivered with passion and ache. "If I Don't Leave Here Now" features stripped-down piano in a tender sendoff to an addict for the sake of self-preservation. "The Rise of the Black Messiah" is a raging anthem in waltz time. Maximal rockist guitars meld with layered mandolins, soaring bass, strings, and drums as the tale of a man wrongfully convicted of murder and executed is revealed. On "Fishtails," Hamlin erects an indie-esque soundscape around a melody tinged with gospel and folk. Slippery reverbed piano, brass, smeared electric guitars, and banjo hover ethereally above the rhythm section. The title track closes the set with the fruit of gratitude for the experiences and stories shared on the previous 12 tracks. It's classic Indigo Girls with acoustic guitars, blended earthy harmonies, and a blissed-out anthemic chorus. One Lost Day's songs may offer commentary about life's rough adventures but they also express openness, willingness, and tenderness as a result of them. With Hamlin and Joseph as collaborators, Ray and Saliers are looking toward new musical horizons while remaining indelibly themselves.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek