Sarah Louise
Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars



by SowingSeason STAFF
January 25th, 2019 | 13 replies

Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Starlit wankery; or, an aural panoramic of the Milky Way galaxy.

To understand Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars, a glance into Sarah Louise’s recent past is prudent. An acoustic artist at heart, Louise has now crafted three pastoral folk albums since 2015. She’s as technically skilled and dexterous as any guitarist out there, which is an obvious statement for fans of her Acoustic Vol. 12. Field Guide and Deeper Woods were both examples of the heights to which the genre can aspire, blending pristine indie-folk with traces of Americana. Creating beautiful acoustic music is obviously no small feat, but it’s a task that can run out of creative wiggle room rather fast. On this fourth effort, Louise answers the question that all too many rut-dwelling folk songwriters find themselves asking: where on Earth do I go from here ? The answer, ironically, is “well, nowhere on this planet.”

Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars is a highly experimental album that stretches listeners’ imaginations. Gone is the pretty strumming and melodic singing that has characterized Louise’s discography to date. Instead, enter long, meandering drone passages. Let the sounds of songbirds flow through your open window. Look out into the night sky as the stars shimmer to the echoed effect of sparkling acoustic guitars. This album is an aural panoramic of the Milky Way galaxy; breathtaking and frighteningly disorienting all at the same time. It’s definitely not just another day at the indie-folk office; that much is certain.

Sarah Louise all but foregoes vocals this time around too, opting to let her guitar work drive the album. As her acoustic prowess deftly steers Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars between shifting tones and energies, there’s an almost jarring discordance lurking beneath the surface; one born of raw energy that’s not quite sure how to burn itself off, catalyzed by an insatiable imaginative appetite. A cynic might describe it as starlit wankery – there’s repetitive strums, plucks, and chords for sure, but they swirl about within this exotic, celestial atmosphere. It’s comparable to Julia Holter’s Aviary – a simultaneous compliment as well as a descriptor of the record’s overarching weirdness. This is a challenging work of art, not a pleasant backdrop for your daily happenings.

However, it’s also the album’s bold, forward-thinking merits that characterize its greatness. There aren’t too many other records you can turn to and hear a song as warmly alienating as ‘Chitin Flight’ – a cut suspended within time and space, floating into the nether regions of the universe while eloquently strumming a detuned guitar. It’s also not every day that a track as vibrantly frenetic – yet somehow still spacious and tonally inclined – as ‘Ancient Intelligence’ comes along. My point in singling out tunes like these isn’t merely to posture them as “album highlights”, but rather to accent how rare they sound from a musical standpoint. Not everything on Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars even sounds all that appealing; it’s a mixture of dissonantly droning synths, wailing vocal backdrops, and resplendent bursts of heavenward beauty. As a result, it can be difficult to truly enjoy the album strictly from an aesthetic standpoint…but it’s almost impossible not to appreciate it for its daring aspirations and rare artistic vision.

Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars takes the leap that so many of Louise’s contemporaries refuse to. It’s a total stylistic departure – a far cry from the rural indie-folk that Sarah was churning out regularly for the last three years. In marrying the most wayward chord progressions with borderline-numbing ambience, she’s crafted an album that is not always listenable in the traditional sense, but that demands respect. It alternates between cold, emotionless soundscapes and warm, soulful flashes of guitar. Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars fears not experimentation, and has the chops to occasionally shine through with awe-inspiring beauty. It’s worth it to not have a front-to-back ear pleaser when the peaks are this brilliant.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
January 25th 2019


Album Rating: 3.8

"Chitin Flight":

Contributing Reviewer
January 26th 2019


Oh nice. I sampled some tracks of this and it sounds interesting.

January 26th 2019


ohh i like this artist. will check

January 27th 2019


I jammed Solo Acoustic Vol. 12 and it was pretty good. Will give this a shot.

Contributing Reviewer
January 27th 2019


my favorite kind of wankery

January 27th 2019


Album Rating: 3.8

neek, I'm not sure why I just don't picture you enjoying this's not in the bridgers/dacus/soccer mommy type vein, closer to julia holter but not as good (but still very beautiful in its own right)

i'd certainly check the youtube link in my first comment, but if that doesn't pique your interest then there's probably not much hope for the rest of the album

January 29th 2019


Album Rating: 3.0

Ooh this sounds neat, I’m always down for some American primitive.

January 29th 2019


Album Rating: 4.0

This album really surprised me. I wasn't so much a fan of her previous one, which, as you mention, is very much by the books in such a way that, for me, anyway, felt confined by tradition. Kudos to her for diving into left-field on this one. The ambient, textured passages; the raw psychedelia; and even country-leaning post-rock feels a la the more pastoral elements of Swans' Soundtracks and The Seer, or early Godspeed: they all come together in conjunction with her acoustic plucking virtuosity to create something truly impression-leaving.

January 29th 2019


Album Rating: 3.8

Awesome to see someone else really digging this. The whole thing is at a minimum very interesting, but the moments that sold me were the first half of Ancient Intelligence and the entirety of Chitin Flight. The way those warm, soft-toned guitars come in amidst all the cold, detached weirdness is nothing short of breathtaking.

January 29th 2019


This sounds wondrous.

January 29th 2019


Album Rating: 3.5

I almost dismissed this one at first. But the review is right, it's interesting (now that I'm paying closer attention).

January 31st 2019


Album Rating: 3.5

me likey this so far, mon

February 13th 2019


Album Rating: 3.0

A nice short record and very unique, I can see myself bumping this a .5 on further listens! need to check out 'Deeper Woods' as well.

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