A resplendent celebration of life emerging from darkness The Returner is the joyous second album from singer/songwriter, poet, activist, and multi-instrumentalist Allison Russell. She’s currently on tour in support of the new release and will be playing at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on November 1st. Written and co-produced alongside dim star (her partner JT Nero and Drew Lindsay) and featuring the billowing talents of her “Rainbow Coalition” ensemble, the record arrives as a dually enlightening and revitalizing vision of liberation.
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Over the course of ten uplifting tracks, The Returner coalesces around the radiance of Russell’s melodically soulful pop as a catalyst for transformative love and radical personal growth. “So long, farewell, adieu, adieu / To that tunnel I went through,” she coos gleamingly against on album opener “Springtime.” Her rapturous goodbye to that once enveloping sorrow — “Well, I used to think that I was doomed / To die young, to be consumed” — characterizes much of the album’s beaming jubilee.
From the ecstatic emotional crescendos of its title track, swelling with lush strings and buoying harmonies, to the irresistibly groovy live wire “Stay Right Here.” Russell appears as a luminous and guiding force facing down life’s “Demons” on the aptly named track: “Oh turn around, look ’em in the face / They don’t like how sunlight tastes.”
Or on the kinetically gleeful “Shadowlands,” a song that transforms the experience of survivors and trauma into a source of empowering and glorious strength. “Every child who returns from the shadowlands / Has an alchemist’s heart,” she cries out against the song’s tangle of jumpy strings and percussion. “A thousand suns burnin’ inside of us / We can melt the hatred with love.”
Other standouts on The Returner include Russell’s soaring manifesto of cosmic and soulful rebirth that spills forth from “Snake Life” — and “Requiem,” a soothing ballad that serves as the album’s closing song. Its galvanizing words offer one last stirring reminder: “Hope is a prairie fire / Set your embers on the summer wind.”
See Allison Russell at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on November 1st.
Words: Steven Ward
Listen to The Returner the new album from Allison Russell below!