Having long parted ways with Vancouver post-punk band the Organ and sung on albums by Pacific Northwest acts including the Cave Singers and the Pink Mountaintops, Vancouver-based musician Ashley Webber debuted her aching, often ghostly indie rock under the stage alias Ashley Shadow in full-length form in 2016. Another credit on her résumé by that point was singing for Bonnie "Prince" Billy. The latter's Will Oldham now returns the favor, making an appearance on "Don’t Slow Me Down" from the project's subtly more hopeful follow-up, Only the End. A poignant highlight from an album full of understated poignancy, the song has Webber and Oldham trading and sharing lines in triplet time as they look back on a relationship gone sour. A languid track with, for the most part, only measure-marking instrumental backing in the form of sustained electric and pedal steel guitar and, later, minimal drums, the song sighs from beginning to end. Though every track conveys a heavily reflective state, more energetic entries here include the psychedelic-leaning "For Love," which employs both a shaker and drum fills in its timekeeping, and the uptempo rock entry "Nothing," whose lush layers of fuzz and echo never bury vocals about endurance and loss. Also included in that group is forward-looking closer "Bury," which adds glistening keys to its strummed design amidst lyrics that regret "...keep burying all these troubled souls." Before it arrives there, though, Only the End prefers to linger in a trudging, spectral sustain as the singer grapples with trauma and trust. It's another touching, haunting work from Shadow and returning producer Joshua Wells (Lightning Dust, Black Mountain).
Only the End Review
by Marcy Donelson