Carter Tanton usually tinkers with gauzy layers, but his new record rings clean with acoustic guitars and the laid-bare sweetness of his voice.
Jettison the Valley is a curious follow-up to Carter Tanton's 2011 record Freeclouds or his 2013 record, They're Flowers (released under the name Luxury Liners). The latter record found Tanton trading guitar-based arrangements for songs built on the laptop. The former was an excellent Bowie-inspired, gauzy trip through many bittersweet shades of pop music. But if those records were about exploring synthy, hazy textures, Jettison the Valley is more about clarity. "Twenty-Nine Palms" rings clean with acoustic guitars and the laid-bare sweetness of Tanton's voice. "Fresh Faced Claire" works a rolling pastoral folk into some swampy country-rock. The title track, featuring Marissa Nadler, is some of Tanton's sparest work, but also some of his best. This is as close as Tanton has gotten to a down-the-middle singer-songwriter album, and it suits him well. His voice doesn't need reverb and echoing layers to spread out over these songs. And though these songs are clear, they are hardly simple. Drums can scuff up the sheen of a song, or the songs can thicken up or thin out their textures on a dime. The album is at its best when its soft folk beginnings stretch out in lively, surprising ways. The second half of the record settles into a bit of a mid-tempo lull, but the songs are still solid and Tanton's performances still deliver his melancholy charm. Jettison the Valley doesn't quite hit the highs of Freeclouds, but it remains a strong, consistent record from start to finish.