Music

​Olivia Chaney Takes 'Shelter' Wherever She Can Find It

Photo: Rich Gilligan / Courtesy of Nonesuch Records

Olivia Chaney's Shelter is a purposely intimate record. She uses the sheer beauty of her vocals and the wood and wire instruments to create reflective and spiritual music.

Shelter
Olivia Chaney

Nonesuch

15 June 2018

Olivia Chaney's Shelter is a purposely intimate record. The acoustic songs feature the London-based singer songwriter's voice front and center. She expresses herself with loud vibrant vocal flourishes and open emotionalism. Yet she also maintains a formal distance. She uses the sheer beauty of her vocals and the wood and wire instruments to create reflective and spiritual music. Chaney's Britfolk sound self-consciously evokes past masters of the genre, particularly Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention, but the evocation of another time has a different meaning now. What was once radical is now traditional.

Of course, traditional does not mean popular nor does it mean plagiarism. Chaney carves out her own path. She wrote eight of the ten tracks on the album with the other two being distinct interpretations of the original compositions: Henry Purcell's "O Solitude" and Frank Harford and Tex Ritter's "Long Time Gone". Her rendition of "Long Time Gone" varies greatly from the Everly Brother's version. Chaney transforms the song into a young girl's cry of freedom through the way she accents certain phrases and the way she celebrates the act of leaving. It's a lovely twist on a song that seemed deliberately male in terms of its archetypal gender roles and the relationship.

Chaney delivers the more romantic material such as "IOU" and "Roman Holiday" with a kind of bouncy joy that makes one feel the love as well as its fragility whenever one couples with another. That also suggests the fantasy of these feelings. Who doesn't always want to feel love when it is a good thing? The artifice of such a world can only exist in song. Such music can function as an escape from the world.

The deepest songs such as "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and "Colin and Clem" offer a more varied strata of meaning. Her tribute to the young adult novel and its theme about the willingness to dream also conveys the emotive hold a story can have. The impact Francie Nolan has had on the generations since Betty Smith wrote it back in 1943 cannot be underestimated. Chaney obviously felt it, too. It makes one wonder if there is a Tree of Heaven growing outside the window right now.

But the record is meant for indoor listening. The outdoors is too noisy for such quiet music. The album was produced by Thomas Bartlett (David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, Father John Misty). He and Chaney's longtime collaborator Jordan Hunt are the only other musicians besides Chaney on the record. The songs are spacious, and there are many silent and very tranquil moments.

The title track, which introduces the disc, provides a good example of this serenity. Chaney lets the high notes ring. The instrumentation keeps the rhythm and the beat moving, at a steady but slightly slowed down pace. Chaney's voice changes timbre and speed, but never goes too fast. The whole point of the song has to do with finding a safe space, which she recreates using the music. That's a noble goal. And sometimes we all need asylum. But I can't help wish that I knew Chaney more. Although her music is naked in one sense of the world (sparseness), she doesn't reveal herself here.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.