“Anything you want to be you can be.”
There is one thing about Ray LaMontagne that you can’t say about every artist you come across: he can do whatever he wants and owns it every single time. His latest effort, concept album Ouroboros, touches on newfound sounds by LaMontagne, while bringing back some of his best styles that reminisce the classics. The chilling flow of Ouroboros harbors his trademark ambience, brooding lyricism, and whispery soul, continuing his career with a full circle effect. The consistency and intended flow of Ouroboros encourages listeners to actively participate in music the old fashioned way: listening to the album from start to finish as each track bleeds into one another as one, long 40-minute song. LaMontagne revels in his appreciation of this old school type of music enthusiasm, splitting his album into two parts – each with a distinctive feeling that easily captures the best tones of Ray LaMontagne’s twangy, atmospheric, and rustic sound.
Sunken piano notes drop into the first part of Ouroboros in “Homecoming”, epitomizing the iconic way LaMontagne introduces his albums as if they were movies. The comforting, mellow track of vivid lyricism and serenity lasts eight gorgeous minutes before plunging into the heart, and leading single, of the album “No Pressure.” As each album for an artist can be seen as a new era, this song marks the Ouroboros era of LaMontagne’s career – an interesting fusion of cold, hard indie rock and revitalized spunk, finding touches of the Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys.
Distorted guitar riffs center around the highlighted tone of the album, as the message of “No Pressure” (“This life is full of give and take / Be careful of each step you take”) comes to realization in “The Changing Man”, which delivers the same rock and roll punch that focuses the composition mostly on the strong instrumentals and solos. Ray LaMontagne concludes part one of Ouroboros with “While It Still Beats”, a surprisingly David Bowie-esque adventure that climaxes the album with euphoric choir parts and psychedelic synth sections that send chills down listener’s spines.
After a powerful first half of LaMontagne’s LP, his more sentimental, atmospheric listeners can find enjoyment in the ambience of part two. Some of these tracks graciously revive the glorious soft sounds of Gossip In The Grain and Till The Sun Turns Black, two of his most essential pieces of work. Second single, “In My Own Way”, not only touches the soul with glittery effects and whispering vocals, but lyrically highlights LaMontagne’s skill of conveying his emotions: “After all’s said and done / Only here a moment / Then the moment’s gone / I’ll spend the day in my own way.” You feel the same content isolation as you lose yourself in deep thought and musical bliss.
He continues on a journey of scenic imagery, serene sounds, and thoughtful ideas in “Another Day” before crossing into a smooth, groovy instrumental section, “A Murmuration of Starlings” – similar to the way he geniously inserted “Truly Madly Deeply” into Till The Sun Turns Black. This bleeds into the end track “Wouldn’t It Make a Lovely Photograph”, which closes out the exceptional Ouroboros with LaMontagne’s trademark drawn out ambience, twangy guitar, and raspy voice, ending his latest effort with the interesting observation: “Never gonna hear this song on the radio.”
He may be right, but maybe that’s what makes Ray LaMontagne so special. Not Top 40 and not wanting to be, he hits the stage with a completely unique set of songs from his last, pulling out his best skills in new forms and perfecting the old. Ray LaMontagne is the Changing Man, and no one is slowing him down.
Folk / Indie | RCA Records