Year of Meteors

Year of Meteors is the fifth album by Seattle singer/songwriter Laura Veirs. Her debut record, in 1999, was just a straightforward affair, recorded live and featuring only Veirs and her acoustic guitar. After that, though, she expanded her sound into distinctive and quirky directions, in various ways assisted by early supporters Bill Frisell and former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde.

Year of Meteors, according to Veirs, is linked thematically by motion, as she wrote much of the album while on tour. "All the songs are about transportation, motion," she says. "If you listen to the words, there's always some movement happening, whether it's greyhounds running down a mountainside as mud flows or a person flying off into the sun or someone lurking around the bottom of the sea."

The song "Galaxies" centers around a chunky electric guitar hook and a warbling synthesizer part which required three people to create. The lyrics convey romantic joyfulness with hyperbolized metaphors of the natural world. "When we dance, eels and seagrass float on by/I'm 10,000 leagues beneth the sea," Veirs sings. It's a lovely marriage of sound and meaning, as the giddy synthesizer conveys delight over the earthy guitar riffs.

But Veirs' musical palette is varied throughout Year of Meteors. "Magnetized" features similar romantic yearning but it's largely an acoustic guitar number contrasting with the urgency of Veirs' sometimes multitracked vocals. Meanwhile, the song "Secret Someones" sports a vibe not unlike Josh Rouse's retro 1972 album, and "Where Gravity is Dead" harks back to the alt-country/folk of her earlier albums.

Veirs is backed by a groups she's dubbed the Tortured Souls, which includes producer and drummer Tucker Martine and keyboardist Steve Moore. Both Martine and Moore also performed with the same credits on recent albums by Erin McKeown and by Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter.

Martine does a good job helping Veirs shape the song's arrangements. Past Veirs albums have sound more alt-country overall, but in a song like "Black Gold Blues," fuzzy guitars with a post-punk angular quality are juxtaposed against a strident viola. "Parisian Dream" also features strings.

Year of Meteors is the album for you if you favor offbeat imagery in thoughtful lyrics and a singer/songwriter who is unafraid to add quirky and unexpected arrangements to melodies which could sound straightforward in other hands.

Mike Sauter, WYEP Music Director