There is an entire sub-genre of poetry devoted to rivers and their persistent, meditative flow. Emily Dickinson’s My River Runs to Thee compares them to the cycle of life, while Alfred Tennyson’s The Brook deems them eternal and Kathleen Raine’s The River muses on the dream-state they evoke. For transcendent folk-pop artist Shannon Lay, the river is all of the above: It’s the metaphor driving her latest album, the exquisitely uplifting August, which doubles as an aural baptism renewing her purpose for making music.
The album’s name, August, refers to the month in 2017 when Lay quit her day job and fully gave herself over to music. This was her liberation as an artist, and the album is devoted to paying that forward to her listeners. Lay may be the most chilled-out artist you’ll ever meet. Despite fronting her tranquil solo act and being a guitarist / singer in the indie-rock band Feels, she never pressures herself to overachieve. In keeping with the humbled, contemplative nature of August, most tracks clock-in at three minutes or less. She saved indulgence for the production. She recorded the album with her longtime friend, musician Ty Segall at his home studio on the East Side. Also in the mix is Mikal Cronin, who played saxophone on the album’s opener, Death Up Close.