Damon & Naomi

The Earth Is Blue

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Damon & Naomi's sixth album, The Earth Is Blue, is their first for the duo's newly formed label, 20/20/20. The move away from Sub Pop didn't have any effect on their sound, though; the album is as lovely and inspired as any of their last few, beginning with 1998's Playback Singers. They manage the balance of art and emotion like few other bands, and that balance is as strong as ever here. The album also continues their collaboration with Ghost's guitarist, Michio Kurihara, much to the duo's benefit. His fluid lines contribute an extra layer of beauty, and he can also add some fire to their often hazy sound, as his incendiary soloing on tracks like "A Second Life" and "House of Glass" attests. Overall, the sound of the record is rich and warm, atmospheric without relying on electronics or over-production. The poetic lyrics, which are quite dense at times, add to the atmosphere, as do the sweeping chord changes, the aching vocals (mostly those of Damon Krukowski), and the parping horns that turn up on a few tracks. Naomi Yang's vocals seem stronger than ever, positively soulful on "A Second Life," and sweet and strong on "Beautiful Close Double." The vocal duet on the lilting, almost country-inspired "Sometimes" is particularly nice. Going back to Galaxie 500's cover of "Isn't It a Pity," Damon & Naomi have had a soft spot for George Harrison, and their cover of one of his most famous compositions, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," is a fine tribute. It takes the song at a funereal pace with a heartfelt vocal from Yang, Kurihara adding subdued guitar squiggles in the background before he lays down a subdued jazz solo at the end. The second half of the record begins to drag just a touch as the hushed and melancholy songs add up, but the fog is lifted by some soaring E-Bow guitar work by Kurihara on the majestic album closer, "The Earth Is Blue." Most bands would have run out of ideas or a reason for being by the time they had been together as long as Damon & Naomi have. No worries about that here. The Earth Is Blue isn't their best work, but it does include some of their most melodic ("Beautiful Close Double"), epic ("House of Glass"), and beautiful ("The Earth Is Blue," "A Second Life") songs, and people who have stuck with them throughout the years will be rewarded by an emotionally powerful, haunting album. Fans of the newly resurgent psych-folk scene should definitely investigate the record and the band, too. They won't be disappointed.

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