Nocturnal Blonde dispense a colorful, albeit confessional, opus in their debut album Still Gushing, a record that is both a twelve-song tribute to the life of Dave Williams and a chilling look into addiction that is unlike any other that I’ve heard in recent memory. Produced with a divinely evenhanded approach to melodicism, Still Gushing’s most formidable offerings – the title track, “Scripted” and “Wings and Horns” – are defined by their intricate instrumental detail, and not by a hot cosmetic polish (as has become commonplace in American indie rock lately). Whether you got into this studio unit via their rookie EP Smart Heart or are just now discovering their sound for the first time, this is one album that definitely belongs on your stereo this August.
“All Those Angels” and “Flesh” have a really surreal feel that is magnified by their postmodern production style, but there’s never a moment in Still Gushing where Nocturnal Blonde sound unfocused or lacking in concise musicianship. “Flesh” entrances us with strings that replicate a sorcerer’s pinwheels, twisting and turning us through an eclectic arrangement that is as emotive as the words it supports so elegantly are, and though it’s as unpredictable as a winding mountain road, it doesn’t come across as improvisational at all.
Still Gushing has an organic warmth to the tonality of its instruments that I haven’t heard a lot of this year, and in tracks like “Oh, D,” “Smart Heart” and “Drained,” we’re given a front-row seat to some of the most stirring string play that the album has to offer. The guitars are as much of a star in these songs as the lyrical lashings are, and although they’re just as impactful in the other tracks that we hear in this tracklist, their contribution to these three is probably what won me over in my initial listening session with the LP.
Singer Rachel Adams is an absolute treasure from beginning to end in Still Gushing, and in the song “Ricochet,” she dishes out a vocal performance that ranks among the most seductive of any you’re likely to hear this season. She’s got so much moxie here, so much adrenaline in her attack, and while she’s ably backed by her cohorts in Nocturnal Blonde, her vibrant command of the verses steals the show in tracks like this one, the Still Corners-esque “Blown Away” and the dark folk-rocker “This House.”
Though its tracklist is, more often than not, uncompromisingly brooding, I would deem Nocturnal Blonde’s Still Gushing a must-listen for alternative folk fans everywhere this August. I was admittedly enamored by what I heard in Smart Heart, but what the band has accomplished in this most recent batch of recordings is undeniably some of the best material that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing all year long. Still Gushing doesn’t ask us for anything more than an open mind and a decent set of stereo speakers, and in exchange it rewards all who give it a spin with a gilded songcraft that is as unique to the Athens music scene as it is to the personal journeys of the players themselves.