Album Reviews

Meg Baird – Furling

(Drag City) UK release date: 27 January 2023

First solo album in seven years from ex-Espers vocalist sees greater depth and more expansive arrangements amid the astral and languorous textures

Meg Baird - Furling San Francisco based singer Meg Baird first established herself musically back in the early to mid 2000s as part of psych-folk outfit Espers before going on to release solo albums that saw her move towards a more purely folk realm.

Along the way she has explored louder and more psychedelic directions as part of Heron Oblivion (the outfit she formed with her partner Charles Saufley and Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson of Comets On Fire), released albums with her sister Laura as The Baird Sisters while also working on one-off collaborations like 2018’s Ghost Forests with harpist Mary Lattimore. She has also contributed vocals to albums by Sharon Van Etten, Kurt Vile, Will Oldham and Joan Shelley and toured with the likes of Angel Olson, Bill Callahan and Bert Jansch, all of which help further contextualise her music.

We last heard from her on 2015’s Don’t Weigh Down The Light which confirmed her solo albums to be largely defined by a sense of detachment and drift, high altitude music that has a mystery and spaciousness to it. These qualities are still very much present on her fourth solo album Furling, but amid the astral and languorous textures there are hints here however at greater depth and more expansive arrangements.

Ashes, Ashes opens in typical Bairdian fashion, wordless vocals floating skybound, a gaseous formation that seems to belong to a remote, disconnected world. The more traditionally constructed Star Hill Song exerts more of a grounding effect, all soft contours and airy progression. Ship Captains evokes visions of rolling plains, while simultaneously projecting a sense of calm. They may have a frosty exterior but there’s also something that quietly invites the listener to explore the intricacies and nuances inside. 

Twelve Saints is a meditation on mortality and escape which adds weight to the feeling that the album arrives with a certain wisdom buried deep within its reflections on life. It also is one of the tracks that features a subtle broadening of musical palette (across the album Baird plays drums, mellotron, organs, synths, and vibraphone alongside her more traditional choices of guitar and piano).

The strongest tracks arguably appear towards the end of the album. The Saddest Verses is suitably poignant and lachrymose, recalling Sandy Denny while Unnamed Drives seems to contain psych-folk seeds that were planted years ago which are now blossoming gracefully. Will You Follow Me Home? is another track that bears faint traces to some of her former bands in its gently flowing nature. Like her other solo albums, Furling is a collection that rewards repeat listens to allow it to fully embed into the consciousness but once it does its soft, rarefied treasure has much to offer.

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More on Meg Baird
Meg Baird – Furling
Meg Baird – Don’t Weigh Down The Light