This album has haunted me, in the best way, for a couple of weeks now, and I expect it to be figuring in my thoughts for months, years, to come.
The last time someone turned me over like this was Laura Jean, and she killed me.
There’s a guitar clang, a ringing afterthought almost, that closes Te Aro – a song which already feels like the longest night of the soul but still isn’t the darkest moment here – that hits me. Every. Single. Time.
And by hit I mean it slams into my heart like two fists and hot breath, settling any thought there might have been of coming back unscathed from the straight arrow opening “I lost myself in Te Aro/What a funny way to lose a heart so strong”.
This might all sound like darkness gripping, sadness holding you.
We’re talking an album which begins with an almost still night, a guitar attractively describing a series of breaths that might just mark the frosted window, before Reid’s voice arrives to say “I stayed with you longer than I had to”. And you sigh. Deeply.
Here’s the thing though: this isn’t despair but hope, clinging to it as the answer for now and maybe the answer for the rest of the night. Reid has a reason to believe. A reason she wants to believe.
That’s not the only explanation for why Preservation feels at times like Tim Hardin with the Cocteau Twins as his band, or maybe Antony/Anohni taking a Lou Reed connection to its logical conclusion: it’s close and big; brutally direct and elaborately expansive; quiet but never anything as simple as hushed.
But Reid also makes beautiful drifting music that would put some in mind of a certain country rock band recording in churches and invoking narcotic nights for cowpokes, without actual narcotics. Or sometimes put you inside that little house where the lost but never improved on album by Sibylle Baier was made.
I Come Home To You for one feels almost reverential, rising to a high ceiling like slow smoke; Richard has shards of guitars and rolling drums with Reid describing fractures in personality with something close to - but never really – forgiveness; Hanson St Part 2 (A River) measures itself with a grace that softens the blow you feel almost in retrospect.
That’s another thing. The songs and the sound are superb, but Nadia Reid’s singing is something beyond that. It’s right there, in reach, tangible, but not raw – that word doesn’t suit the tone here; it’s too harsh. Instead it has skin, so very fine skin. Translucent skin.
That’s where the truth gets in.