“Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth,” Pablo Picasso told The Arts reporter Marius de Zayas in 1923. More recently, in the spring of 2018, Loma revealed their own untruth at the Bootleg as part of a tour for their eponymous debut album. Even more lies await on their sophomore record, Don’t Shy Away—each one more illuminating than the last. Listen to Don’t Shy Away today and pick up a yellow vinyl copy on Sub Pop.
This album wasn’t supposed to happen. The trio, comprised of Emily Cross, Jonathan Meiburg, and Dan Duszynski, had other plans after the release of Loma. Cross moved to Mexico to work on visual art, and she released a deeply moving album under the Cross Record moniker last year. Similarly, Meiburg went to work on new Shearwater material, and Duszynski was busy in the studio working on Jess Williamson’s Sorceress and Why Bonnie’s breakout EP, Voice Box. But then they heard that Brian Eno had been talking about them on the radio, gushing about their track “Black Willow.” It made them reconsider things. Eventually they returned to Duszynski’s Texas home to work on what would become Don’t Shy Away.
Though Cross provides the main voice, all three members of Loma contribute lyrics to a hazy tale that stretches across the record’s 11 songs. Deep brass is omnipresent and creates an unsettling atmosphere, which becomes more overwhelming as the album progresses.
“Ocotillo” is one of the more upbeat numbers toward the start, curling notes toward the heavens while acknowledging life is in “beautiful disarray.” Other joyous moments occur on “Half Silences” and “Breaking Waves Like a Stone,” two tracks that find comfort with a higher tempo.
But comfort is perhaps the greatest falsehood on Don’t Shy Away. According to a press release, “Meiburg compares [the band’s songwriting] process to using a ouija board, and says the songs revealed themselves slowly, over many months.”
There is a candid spirit throughout this record that would be lost if restricted by genre or expectations. On “Thorn,” part of the production comes from Cross’ podcast, What I’m Looking At (which also relates to “I Fix My Gaze,” if only in the most literal way). In the clip, she is thoughtful and her words deliberate, emphasizing the title before one hears it sung.
The album seems to take off during “Given a Sign,” as the rapid patter of live and manipulated percussion imitates feet pounding the ground. Other intermittent effects, such as muddied synth sirens or murmurs from nature, only thrust listeners further into Loma’s fable. The moral comes during the title track, as the album’s energy winds down.
“Homing” is a fitting epilogue. The title refers to the instinct an animal has to return from where they came, and in context of the record, it indicates a return to the start—to “I Fix My Gaze,” or even back to “Who Is Speaking?” Not to mention, “Homing” was produced by Eno. Just as he encouraged the band to continue making music, their collaboration with him closes this chapter. Here’s to hoping this isn’t the last.
by: Zoë Elaine