Lauren Balthrop – Alabama grown, New York tested, and Nashville bound – quiets even the loudest room. Balthrop’s debut album, This Time Around produced by Josh Kaufman (Bob Weir, The National, Craig Finn, Clare Bowen, Trixie Whitley, Amy Helm, Hiss Golden Messenger), is beguiling in its honesty, rich in dark sonic beauty and above all, devilishly playful.
This Time Around chronicles the story of an uprooted soul. Feeling spun out of orbit, tumbling, accidents, and loss of control are recurring themes yet Balthrop finds solace in the chaos of love. There is a sneaky confidence in Balthrop’s vocals – all honey and soaring – almost as if she feels most at ease when her heart is dizzy. Each track on the album oscillates between the moodiness of experimental dark folk instrumentation, and the levity of Balthrop’s crystal-fueled voice.
From the magical realism and twisted fairy tale-nature of “Maple Tree” to the fuzzed out guitar of “Don’t Ever Forget,” and the drunken carousel-esque swooning of “Tumbleweed,” This Time Around is the poster child for rich, subversive pop music. At times Balthrop hits Beatles-like pop hooks and harmonies, and beats that would make Petty nod from the heavens.
“We Fell” stands out as one of the most spare and beautiful tracks, inspired by the twilight of a relationship. The song is a somber waltz, lamenting the way lovers gamble their hearts, repeatedly. Kaufman and Balthrop have plenty of production tricks up their sleeves: a tambourine begins to rattle like a shackled ghost; these songs never behave like they should.
This Time Around is not overtly a political statement, but it’s impossible not to make a connection between the current global instability and Balthrop’s thematic focus on feeling spun out of orbit. The opening track, “Down,” was initially written as a response to political uncertainty and morphed from protest to love song. Balthrop holds love as the party line throughout, and her heart’s never-ending quest can be re-read as a pro-peace battle cry.
“When I’m on my death bed,” Balthrop says, “the only questions I will ask myself are: how did I love, how much, and could I have loved more?” This Time Around is a profound statement on finding beauty in chaos and refusing to hide your heart. Above all, Balthrop insists that we dance, especially when it’s dark.
With Balthrop at the helm, This Time Around features an all-star cast: Peter Lalish (Lucius, Uni Ika Ai) on guitar, Jason Lawrence on drums (Jesse Marchant, The Building), Josh Kaufman on bass, Karen Waltuch (Wilco) on strings, Elizabeth Ziman (Elizabeth & the Catapult) on backing vocals, Annie Nero (A. Nero) on backing vocals, Lucas Madrazo (Inland Traveler) on backing vocals, Maia Friedman (Uni Ika Ai, Dirty Projectors) on backing vocals and Tom Krueger on backing vocals. This Time Around is slated for release September 21,2018 via Tone Tree Music.