You have to admire Amy Loftus’ industrious nature, look at her career path to date and you see that it takes in everything from performing improv at the legendary Second City, studying art in Florence, podcasting, blogging and the domesticity of family life. That would be enough for most people but of course she is best known for making a succession of wonderfully sleek and gentle albums. Keep Me Wild is her eighth to date! You can’t say that she doesn’t put the hours in.
It would be wrong to say that she has a defined sound, but she does have a vibe, musically speaking, one that takes in chilled and totally accessible pop, the most graceful of country vibes, the occasional slice of rock energy and the most ambient touch of commercial indie sounds. There is also something less than tangible that hangs above, something that seems to come from a more artistic place and is perhaps akin to how a watercolour artist uses the paper as part of the finish painting rather than filling every space with brush strokes and pigment. But more than anything it is her voice that is the most instantly memorable facet when you encounter her music. There is something both crystal clear yet warm and inviting about her vocal tone, something that gets even more lush and comforting when additional layers are added in the form of backing harmonies.
There is a lot to be said about kicking an album off by making a big impact, starting big, getting the listeners attention with a bang. Amy Loftus is both more clever and brave than most and instead delivers an opening salvo, Concrete Driveways, fashioned from restraint and understatement, space and atmosphere. And this is the perfect mission statement for an album that relies on poise rather than power, a sign of the deft and delicate nature of things to come.
This is taken to its less-is-more extreme on California Air, a spacious piano ballad that drifts along on a single beat, sparing piano chords and gorgeous vocal textures, Ghost In You follows a similar template where the voice becomes the focal point and the title track is a drifting dreamscape of understated majesty. But when she does chose to rock out a bit more, such as on Down The Line, it is done with the utmost attention to detail through perfectly a measured balance of grace and groove.
As always Amy Loftus delivers something exquisite and Keep Me Wild is as much a collection of songs as it is a soundscape of delicacy; lyrically it is wonderfully intimate, musically it is ethereal, the perfect blend of reality and otherworldly. I thought that last year’s Sweetest Surrender had set a benchmark that would be hard for anyone to follow, even Amy Loftus herself. I am pleased to report that I have underestimated her.