It’s been a sweet summer for Lucy Arnell, the San Francisco psych – folk – rock songstress you’ve most likely seen at a number of DIY venues around town. Most recently, Arnell hosted her record release party at Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads. In the end of August, she dropped her debut LP The Whole Sky Turned Red With The Rainbow.
Arnell calls San Francisco home – Larkspur, to be exact. By chance she was introduced to producer/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jason Abraham Roberts (Norah Jones, HYMNS), and the two formed an excellent studio partnership. They collaborated on ten original songs to create The Whole Sky Turned Red With The Rainbow, Arnell’s debut studio LP release. The album was recorded at the late Elliott Smith’s stomping grounds New Monkey Studio, and features drumming from cult improvisational rock band Phish’s Jon Fishman.
Tanpura sounds in the opening moments of the record begin the moody, psychedelic outburst of “Dr. Captain’”, reminiscent of some early ‘Summer Of Love’ fantasy. The intense guitar riff driving the song coupled with Arnell’s dreamy vocals and vintage tones create an array of interesting moods and emotions, all of which amount to: incredibly pleasing to the ears.
The second track stands in stark contrast to the first – yet, bears a similarity that can only be Arnell’s budding style. A dreamy acid-fueled landscape quickly turns into a more modern one, a love song – ‘Man Of Sound’ embodies a more classic vintage pop sound. It’s Roberts’ guitar weaving with pianist Pete Remm’s modest notes that add simple but powerful emphasis to the lovesick call of the tune. The time signature is interesting as Arnell weaves through the song the story of a man, impassioned by music yet longing for love. The dichotomy of the main character’s developed lyrics matches the interesting rhythm sections.
Later on, the instrumental, catchy, upbeat “Sans-Souci” is a 60’s surf-rock inspired carefree and goofy release, possibly the most easy going tune on the record. Don’t be deceived, however, as easy going for Arnell does not mean simple. The interesting riff hooks the listener, and the powerful ending guitar duel between Arnell and Roberts features soaring rock n’ roll notes intertwined with dirty feedback noises, creating a wild landscape.
The final track, “Fatal Folk”, features the album’s most recognized contributor, Phish’s Jon Fishman. Although his performance is not played in the typical Fishman drumming style, it is oddly refreshing to hear him playing a more straight forward beat. Still, as the verse turns around to a second part, he still manages to add a flair of interesting timing. The song’s driving, somber yet hopeful chords create quite an interesting mood of a dreamlike space of fear and sadness. The song’s final jam seems almost mandatory when you have Jon Fishman at the helm, yet the spaceyness and sparseness of the notes and psych-drenched tones make this jam all Arnell’s own.
Arnell’s record allows you know her. The developed lyrics tell emotional and complex stories which seem to be so real they could only come from her own experiences. The themes are evolved and curious, exhibiting an endearing passion of life. Above all, the 10 songs are incredibly thoughtful. The messages, words, lyrics, vocals, chords, sounds – everything – are dripping with care, passion, thought, and honesty. These qualities are rare in music now a days, and it’s these exact attributes that set Lucy Arnell apart in my eyes – and will soon in the public’s eyes.
Arnell’s songwriting is a heartfelt homage to the past, in every sense. Experimental but not pretentious, classic but not old. The psych-rock tinged canvas painted on her freshman release demonstrates more than just a sense of melody; the youth of her songwriting is endearing, and the feeling is palpable. It’s familiar, but unique. I’ve heard it before, but just can’t put my finger on it. It’s that exact type of wonder that creates a place for Lucy in your hearts. Wonderous and new, yet oddly familiar.
You can get the album available digitally and on 12” limited edition vinyl via Lucy Arnell’s official website.