Review Summary: Life is but a dream
There are plenty of bands that carefully toe the line between folk and psychedelia, but it’s been a long time since I’ve heard one dive in without reservation quite like Loving does on If I Am Only My Thoughts
. The follow-up to their seven track self-titled debut, it immerses itself in placid dreams, starlit panoramic views, and hazy summer sunsets. It’s all things aesthetically pleasing; this wavy, ambient trip that bends itself around entrancing soundscapes and breathtaking melodies. Basically, it’s the perfect album to trust-fall into: just close your eyes, lean back, and sink into it like a soft cloud.
All of this surely sounds wonderful, and in most ways it is. Lead vocalist Jesse Henderson’s endearingly timid, lo-fi vocals take a back seat to the instrumentation, which consists primarily of weightless percussion, dizzying synthesizers, iridescent piano loops, and finger-plucked acoustics. All of this blurs together delightfully and rings out with clarity, while sliding effortlessly across the production’s smooth and finished gleam. The end result in a lush psych-folk garden that constantly beckons to whisk you away into its spinning, hypnotic little globe.
Even down to its title, however, If I Am Only My Thoughts
feels a little too self-aware. It wears its influences on its sleeve, sounding at times like an amalgamation of psychedelic adages – as if they are checking off boxes. The lyrics predictably wax poetic about dreams, reality, and all things vaguely existential without truly digging deep enough to arrive at any original realization. The impression one walks away with, at least at times, is that everything was done on purpose to achieve a very specific aesthetic. Of course that’s almost always the case when an artist sets out to record, but as the listener, it shouldn’t be so easy able to see through the smoke and mirrors.
If I Am Only My Thoughts
is an elegant album end-to-end, but one that ultimately feels slightly hollow. It seems to be a prime example of “style over substance”, which often allows a piece to sound stunning in the moment only to wane from memory when it isn’t being constantly refreshed. With additional soul-searching, Loving could soon arrive at their diamond-in-the-rough – but for now, If I Am Only My Thoughts
is just a beautiful cut of cubic zirconia.