Ray LaMontagne has a new album out, Ouroboros, which features the singer along with My Morning Jacket. It’s a really sublime album, featuring just two tracks, designed to imitate the ‘vinyl experience’. There’s really eight tracks on the album, and it’s up there with the best of his works.
LaMontagne is one of those artists that has gotten better as time has gone on, and his music has been a real comfort at various points in my life. Till The Sun Turns Black tracked some things in an uncanny fashion, while Gossip in the Grain helped (and alternatively didn’t help) with the aftermath. God Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise was brilliant, and Supernova was quite a bit of fun.
I don’t quite know where Ouroboros fits there, but it feels like one of those albums that feels different, special. It’s short – just 40 minutes or so but it’s packed with a lot of material. There’s some echoes of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in the background, and probably some other influences that I haven’t picked up yet.
What I found really interesting here is LaMontagne’s reflection back on his older albums: he noted that he can’t listen to Trouble without cringing:
I can’t even listen to Trouble because all I hear is a much younger me manhandling the process. I hear that on the first record, the second record, the third record. There are little moments that start to come through as the records progress, but mostly I just hear myself manhandling it. I’m trying too hard. I’m trying to shape the songs too much. I’m singing too hard. I’m pushing too hard. But when you’re just learning, that’s something you have to go through before you figure it out. I felt like with Supernova, when I listen to that album, all I hear is magic. I hear myself completely out of the way, just letting the songs dictate. They tell me what they want. I follow them. It’s their game.
You can certainly hear the learning curve, but he started at an already high point with Trouble – he started with a fairly conventional album, and with every followup, you can hear his music become more and more sophisticated.