erasing clouds

Lorna, Writing Down Things to Say

review by dave heaton

Writing Down Things to Say opens with one of those instantly transporting songs, where you’re taken to a place of calm, of thought, as one person sings over a lone guitar: “What time does this place close / don’t you people ever sleep? / the music’s way too loud around here.” The lyrics slide from atmosphere to a conversation, around the same time that another voice, a woman’s voice, appears to sing back-up. This is Mark Rolfe and his wife Sharon Cohen-Rolfe; together with two others they make up Lorna, a UK group that plays slow and low, but always with a vivid sense of place, projecting a distinct feeling that flows out the speakers and overtakes you. It’s sad music sometimes, pretty music always, and clever music too.

Within the comforting, bittersweet mood the band creates throughout, there is variety, which keeps the album riveting. “Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)” is a languid version of the Sebadoh song. It’s followed by an organ-led introduction that echoes Yo La Tengo, before the singers come in with the strange but compelling sentiment of the song’s title: “(I Wish I Knew) How to Build a House”. Taken together with that song, the lightly country-fried song that follows, a “Place That We Can Go”, evokes an overall album theme of home or lack thereof, one that resonates with the directional references in “Look Left” and “East of the Stars”, the travelling references in those songs and the lovely sunset campfire ballad “Mostly Good Times”.

The last song’s title, “Warm Architecture”, accompanies all of these place and distance references to remind us that musically the band has created its own sense of place within the album, one that works well with songs of longing and distance. Accompanying musicians play a host of instruments – trumpet, pedal steel, violin, cello – that help build the songs and augment the feelings, without ever trying to take center stage. The whole album seems carefully composed, and every piece fits with each other.

One of the songs that lingers longest, within an album filled start to finish with outstanding songs, is the especially spare and moving “Monsters Are Forever”, with Sharon Cohen-Rolfe singing delicately but emotionally about missing someone whose a source of support. “You’re there when I fall”, she repeats, though later she adds “only when I sleep”, building a sense of mystery as a partner to the longing. It’s a haunting song, within a haunting album.


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