Gregory Alan Isakov
Evening Machines


4.5
superb

Review

by Evok CONTRIBUTOR (48 Reviews)
May 30th, 2021 | 11 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: put out the smoke in your mind, let's put all these words away.

I'd be a lot further along in life if my pen bled as effortlessly as Gregory Alan Isakov's voice. With six albums out and almost two decades of work notched into his folky belt, this Philly-raised gentleman has never once hinted at a forced hand. From his earliest endeavors through to his latest opus, Evening Machines, everything that has been presented by his craftsman's touch has come off as naturally as nature herself. It's no small feat to keep that momentum chugging along for someone who lays claim to venerated albums like This Empty Northerm Hemisphere and That Sea, The Gambler, but in the fifteen years since his debut, Isakov's craft has aged like a fine cab sauv. It's been a logical evolution, and one that has watched Isakov slowly bolster the chamber arrangements and textural symphonies that compliment his songcraft into something now more ethereal than pastoral. Just listen to "Southern Star" to get the idea. This isn't just indie folk draped in shades of sepia, it's a soundtrack to a film whose rustic reel plays only in the privacy of your own soul. That intimate demeanour and emotional universality that have long underpinned a hefty procurement of antique tonic are still here in spades, but temporally speaking, the stillshots of old hitching posts and railway lines have taken a back seat to sun-spotted memories of floating dandellion seeds and big blue skies, making Evening Machines less an exercise in poignant nostalgia and more a beast of existential awe than its predecessors.

Perhaps his work alongside the Colorado Symphony a couple years prior kindled a new desire to render his folksome musings in a more colourful light, or perhaps its just a thing that comes along with artistic maturity. After all, at some point, every artist with an inkling of introspection finds themselves staring at the greater void, and all are left to confront their findings through art when that day comes. For a full time farmer like Isakov, it seems as though it's a topic that's been reconciled far too long ago to warrant a direct confrontation. “I recorded mostly at night, when I wasn’t working in the gardens. It doesn't matter if it’s summer or winter, morning or afternoon, this music always feels like evening to me” touts the ever humble Pennsylvanian, as if those grandiose questions of matter and spirit are happy to be reduced to moods brought on by sunsets on the ranch. The simplest of things hold the entire world in their essence, like a grain of sand holding the entire beach in its pebbleness, and it's with that sense of Zen-like humility that Isakov's music bears the utmost profundity. Lines like "Silver and gold, precious stones, so I'm told, ah we're clutching, but there ain't nothing we can hold" on the enchanting "Bullet Holes" are noble on paper, but when taken in the context of everything surrounding them in Evening Machine's world, they seem to resonate with the heart on untold levels.

Even the most downtrodden moments like those in "Too Far Away" are dotted with flecks of polychroma in the form of well-placed vocal harmonies and bright chimes, and these moments do well to highlight the significance of the subtle evolutions in Isakov's ouevre. It's a fine balance between towing the line and adding splashes of new colour, and while Isakov's sixth LP is certainly consistent beside his greater body of work, the romp of tracks like "Caves", with its rapturous chorus and steam-engine lurch, underscore his knack for branching out while maintaining an excellent sense of pacing. A lot of ground is covered on Evening Machines, but it never strays too far from the fencelines. It feels local, microcosmic even, yet somehow captures the grand scope of the human experience without ever leaving the rural county that birthed its existence. That simplicity of a life away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitania, captured in song, is inadvertently a stark reminder that maybe we all just need to slow down a bit. Maybe life is a lot simpler than we make it out to be, and maybe a lot of what us urbanites peg as "essentials" are really just superfluous manifestations of our egos. Whatever the case, it sounds like ol' Gregory is still here to put out the smoke in our minds and remind us to appreciate the small wonders that surround us every day.



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user ratings (27)
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Evok
Contributing Reviewer
May 30th 2021


8519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ughh, I love this man. Yeah this album is a few years old now, but with a new one on the way this year I'm started to get excited.

Sowing
Moderator
May 30th 2021


39306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yesssss I had no idea he had new material coming this year. I just started getting into his work but he is amazing and can do no wrong. This Empty Northern Hemisphere is already one of my all time top 100 albums. Excellent review too, as always.

Digging: Lil Ugly Mane - Volcanic Bird Enemy...

Colton
May 30th 2021


12705 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

am a sucker for album covers like this and TENH is pretty solid if a bit underwhelming at times, new one on the way gives me a reason to dive further into his discog though. Are his other albums as good as/better than that one?

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
May 30th 2021


8519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Tbh, if you're gonna own one Isakov album, it needs to be his live album with the Colorado Symphony. That thing is on a whole other level.

normaloctagon
May 30th 2021


6525 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

gorgeous review dude.. will check this soon

Digging: MF DOOM - Special Herbs 7,8

Colton
May 30th 2021


12705 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

him being accompanied by a symphony sounds like it might actually negate some of the gripes I have with his music at times so I'll check that

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
May 30th 2021


8519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think it'll hit the spot for ya then ;)

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
May 31st 2021


2911 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Crazy that this is the first GAI release to get a review on this site, but this definitely does the occasion justice!



I've actually only heard this album once and wasn't overly impressed, despite really liking most of his stuff. I'll have to revisit, especially since he's got a new one coming out.

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
May 31st 2021


8519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good lord how is this the first review for him here?? Thats messed up. Dude's music was on a McDonalds commercial once. You could say he's kind of a big deal

XXMurdaBeatzXX
June 1st 2021


61 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just gave this a re-listen, GAI is way better than I remember

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
June 2nd 2021


8519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

He benefits well from a good set and setting for sure. Good sound system always helps with organic recordings too. I've been really impressed by the soundstage on his past few albums.



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