To call A Weather’s music understated is almost an understatement. Trading in muted instrumentation, breathy sighs and slow tempos, the band crafts somnambulant studies of domesticity and loneliness that invite the listener to fill in the gaps. If this all sounds a bit tedious, it’s not. On record, the band brings to bear a mastery of quiet desperation and space, resulting in emotionally nuanced songs worth leaning in for.
On their sophomore LP, Everyday Balloons, the Portland quartet nudges up the volume dial ever so slightly, bringing in electric instruments and comparatively lush arrangements. However, like on their debut LP, Cove, the band continues to wield white space like an additional instrument, giving these 11 songs ample room to breathe and expand. Once again, the vocal interplay between guitarist Aaron Gerber and drummer Sarah Winchester provides a sonic anchor, with an increased focus on harmonization this time around.
Gerber’s drowsy, resigned whisper sets the tone here, opening up “Third of Life” with the lament, “No matter when I wake up / the day always is the same length”, atop a gently fingerpicked guitar line. After the first verse, Winchester enters, providing a husky, emotive counterpoint to Gerber while bright electric guitars blossom all around and drums tumble underneath. It’s a wake-up-call, albeit a gentle one.
While all 11 of these songs are musically rich and deeply felt, “Midday Moon” feels like the album’s emotional centerpiece. The song finds Winchester alone at the piano, hinting at the melancholy of everyday life through a series of vignettes and anthropomorphized domestic objects. “You once were a dish sponge, now you clean tiles / In the bathroom, where sponges go to die / And I’m not watertight, anymore / But I’m pushing off, from the shore”, she sings over weighty minor chords, her voice solemn yet determined. She goes on to document the Momento mori that is “a broom sweeping up its own bristle” and observes that, “I’m so much stronger than anyone knew”. It’s a quietly haunting, disarmingly intimate song that stands as the most devastating track the band has penned to date.
While Everyday Balloons isn’t likely to win over many new converts, it will certainly satisfy fans of Cove, not to mention fans of acts like Low and the New Year. By expanding their musical palette, A Weather has managed to keep things fresh while continuing their measured explorations of solitude, slumber and that perennial Portland favorite, rain. Everyday Balloons might not be for everyone, but for the right kind of listener it will be a record to get lost in. Just remember: it doesn’t hurt to get out of the house every once in a while.