30 years of making music together have awarded Amy Ray and Emily Sailers of the Indigo Girls all the durable benefits of a 3-decade creative partnership, without the looming possibility of staleness or redundancy. On their most recent album together, One Lost Day, their practiced sense for folk-rock songcraft is buoyed by their perpetually rich vocal partnership. The pair’s expert navigation the most tender and most fierce possibilities of their trademark sound is refreshed with the help of visionary new producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin, and mixer Brian Joseph. Fresh working relationships ensure the Indigo Girls’ distinctive sound remains innovative and renewed while traversing the well-worm thematic terrain of love, loss, heartache and happiness.
On their fourteenth album together, the Indigo Girls have created a collection of sounds and stories that add to their already impressive musical armoury. One Lost Day expresses despair and addiction as elegantly as it describes moments of joy, love, and new life. Sailers’ beautiful lilt saturates the earthy nostalgia of Eizabeth, saluting the past by recounting unforgettable coming-of-age moments with a special childhood friend with fondness, before Ray adds a cathartic edginess to the album’s lead single Happy In The Sorrow Key. The track, inspired by Ray’s late father and a tenacious refusal to embrace suffering, faces reality with a steadfast optimism, driven by invigorating garage rock with grungy guitars, layered vocal harmonies and swelling strings. In stark contrast to its predecessor, Southern California Is Your Girlfriend is a breezy pop-kissed ballad drenched in sunshine.
On the geographically inspired Texas Was Clean and Alberta, the pair’s exquisite vocal blend comes to full fruition. Alberta, a track based on a rockslide that devastated the small mining town of Frank in Canada, is wonderfully polyphonic at times, but mostly simply embraces beautiful harmonies, immediately spotlighting the strengths of the pair’s complimenting voices. Texas Was Clean is similarly mesmerising, with muted percussion and beautifully-written dreamlike lyrics, evoking the landscape of its namesake as the duo coos together: “Texas was clean, just a no-man’s dream/A slate that I’d never written on/The dust blown ’round, lonely town, boots on the porch of a barn/As far from the South without getting out of the corner of my heart”.
While the stripped-back tenderness of “If I Don’t Leave Here Now” deals with the distressing abandonment of addicts and addiction, necessary for self-preservation, the pair doesn’t forget to let loose on tracks like the rollicking rocking Olympia Inn, as well as the unexpected pure pop of Learned It On Me.
Never afraid to express their political beliefs, in the studio and out of it, tracks like The Rise of The Black Messiah and Findlay, Ohio 1968 readily articulate the duo’s conscientious social awareness. The former manifests this political and social involvement as a fierce attack on perpetual racial inequality. An anthem rolling with penetrating guitars, a more subdued mandolin, discordant strings and driving bass, it rages with intense criticism of injustice. Findlay, Ohio 1968 on the other hand is a rambling ballad centred on dreamlike strings and sparse accompaniment as Sailers beautifully recounts personally- and historically-nuanced memories as she laments, “In two years’ time Ohio will be up in flames.” Ray’s smoky timbre also tackles Spread The Pain Around, and with effortless harmonies and understated accompaniment rounds out three of the most strikingly poignant tracks on an album replete with intimate and affecting songs.
Their latest in a string of critically and commercially successful albums, One Lost Day only serves to strengthen the multi-generational allure of the Indigo Girls. The pair’s unwavering pursuit of music centred on skilful musicality, exquisite narratives and openhearted intimacy remains timeless in any era.