REVIEW: Rachel Haden – “July 6”

Last year Rachel Haden’s Devil’s In Me release was one of my favorite singles of the year. I was immediately drawn to the somber, melancholy feeling of both tracks and pleasantly surprised at how well that particular vibe worked so well coming from an artist who’s known for working with generally upbeat acts such as The Rentals, Weezer, and Beck (to name a few).  With such an extensive career spanning three decades, I was interested in where a full length LP would take her.  With July 6, the wait is officially over.

“On The Sun” opens the album with distant tremelo effect and a warm mechanical buzz before being interrupted by a gentle acoustic guitar and Haden’s angel vocals telling the story of a relationship that may or may not have been doomed from the start. Despite being an singer/songwriter piece, the digital feedback continues in the background making a nice contrast between comforting and off-kilter, fading directly into the aforementioned Devil’s In Me”, giving that single an all new vibe. She makes it clear from the very start this record isn’t going to be another sleepy acoustic album.

Being one of the daughters of jazz legend Charlie Haden, it’s not surprising Rachel knows her way a
round a melody.
Her distinctive harmonies single handedly set The Rentals apart from other alternative acts of the mid 90s, and gave her band That Dog the midas touch of pop sensibility, but with this record we are finally gettiJuly62ng to hear her craft take center stage instead of being used as ingredient. “I’m Away” my personal favorite track on the album, once again utilizes a melancholy progression that gets shattered by Haden’s vocal delivery. It’s hard to explain but it’s like experiencing hardships where you want to give up, but you are embraced by someone you care for deeply and gives you just enough hope to weather the storm. The entire album is full of moments like that. Haden doesn’t pander to your emotions, she is fully aware of sadness and desperation but still knows that despite how it looks, things manage to work out in some way. For that aspect alone July 6 is truly a special album.

 

There’s a certain vulnerability within each composition that makes the entire record a sentimental experience. It’s emotionally heavy yet still subtle and inviting. There’s no yelling or wailing and Haden’s vocals rarely get above a delicate whisper, but delivering such a gut wrenching album without crying guitars or thunderous percussion is a testimony to her artistry. She tell a story of sadness and despair without the pop ballad trope. Inspire you to keep going without relying on hollow preachy lyrics. She makes you feel what she’s singing without beating it over your head. On a technical level that’s an amazing feat, especially in this day in age.

july63July 6 is available on vinyl exclusively through Greenway Records, the same label who put out her vinyl debut Devil’s In Me last year. It’s available in two color variants (clear blue, and a beautiful Coke bottle clear, pink and white splater) both styles include an autographed insert and are only available in very limited quantities. The mastering on the vinyl pressing is reference quality, when I gave this album a spin for the first time the lush soundscapes of each song take a life of their own in ways digital never could. It’s almost as if this album was made for vinyl.

 

Overall July 6 sounds almost nothing like anything Rachel Haden has released with the list of artists she’s worked with. It’s an subtle, dream-like wall of vocals and emotion and one of the most beautiful records of the year so far. I didn’t really know what to expect before listening and my expectations were still destroyed. Rachel Haden is an artist in every sense of the word and this album is her crowning achievement.

For more info on Rachel Haden, visit RachelHadenMusic.com/

To purchase July 6 on vinyl, go to Greenway Records

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Aaron The Audiophile

Son, brother, uncle, musician. I enjoy music of all genres, shapes and sizes, preferably the good kind.

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