Lifted, the latest album from indie folk rocker Israel Nash, is a pleasantly mellow listen where everything sounds just fine, but I was left wanting something more.
The acoustic guitars ring clear, the strings swell dramatically, the horns and backing vocals add a little soul, the pedal steel is weepy in all the right places, and the production is ornate and clearly labored over. But it’s the weight of all that production, the overstuffed and tightly controlled arrangements, that strangle the life out of songs that should be raw and ragged.
While Nash’s music brings to mind other wounded, whiskey-soaked woodsmen like Phosphorescent, Father John Misty, My Morning Jacket and Will Oldham, he lacks the gravitas or charisma of those artists. His arrangements and lyrics are often generic and cheesy, buried under radio friendly production thats too slick to convey the rootsy vibe he’s is going for.
That’s not to say there aren’t some winners here. “Lucky Ones” channels the Eagles, and is even about their favorite topic of takin’ it easy. “Sweet Springs” has sugary Beach Boys harmonies, and “Hillsides” is an album highlight that captures some of The War on Drugs’ downbeat introspection.
Despite its shortcomings, Lifted is the work of an excellent band playing a strain of rock that’s all too rare in 2018. While it might not quite hit all the spots I’d like it to, it’s an impressive album that I would recommend to fans of melancholic, melodic folk rock.
Score: 🤙🤙🤙 /5