I downloaded this one purely on a whim (and something of a recommendation from both Q and MOJO). If I remember rightly, I got it during a paranoid craze of downloading that immediately preceded my coming to Uni, in fear that I'd be unable to download on the Uni network (a fear proved true). It's taken me until now to build up the will to listen to it.
I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn't anything this good. Laura Veirs fits in with the female singer-songwriter template that's served so many of her contemporaries so well, but even so, she seems distinct. Perhaps it's her wonderful voice - very easy on the ear, delicate, warm, soft. Perhaps it's her willingness to experiment with electronics, ambience, unusual instrumentation ("Lake Swimming" offers all of the above) and on standout track "Black Gold Blues", crunching distorted guitars and full string sections. Perhaps it's her ear for a melody that, over 12 tracks, never once fails her.
Or maybe it's because on Year Of Meteors
, a world is effortlessly constructed, and that is the mark of a truly special album. The touches of mysticism (the call of 'no gravity!' on "Galaxies", the story spun on "Spelunking") are actually fairly few and far between, but they stick. It's that which makes the album an experience - it remains sparse and otherworldly throughout. And yet, it sounds like an indie-pop album. Aside from their melancholy and restraint, the songs here aren't a million miles away from Belle & Sebastian.
If there's anyone she sounds like, then she's in Liz Phair and Poe territory. But those two were often too angry for their own good; Laura Veirs is far more measured, intelligent, and introspective. For that, no other singer-songwriter, male or female, can touch her right now. "Galaxies" almost proves that alone - the album's best melody finds itself tied to a dry rhythm guitar skank that unfolds gently into a chorus backed by swirling electronics. For 2 minutes at the end of the song, the band just vamp on the chorus, as backing vocals join the fray and Laura keeps intoning the words 'no gravity'. And you almost feel yourself float away. It's hypnotic.
This is one of 2005's most overlooked treats. Only Amos Lee managed a better singer-songwriter album than this last year, but even his album wasn't this fascinating. Laura Veirs manages to match his romantic streak, too, making this a perfect album both for the head and the heart. Highly recommended.