Brooklyn duo Nassau, AKA Justin Wilcox and Jeffrey Silverstein, are back with their first proper full-length, Heron. You may remember we covered the band’s debut EP Hoss last year, which we described as “like Water Liars swaying in sunglasses, or the feeling of watching a summer’s evening fading from peach to blue-grey, the air thick with an insect hum and the petrichor of distant storms.”
Heron shows renewed focus since the release of Hoss, each of the eight tracks crafted with precision from the reasonably utilitarian set-up of guitar, drum machine and synth, producing a sound that’s clean and smooth, a remarkable feat considering the whole thing was made in Wilcox’s home studio. This sense of focus extends beyond sonic matter too, as the writing centres on the imagery of the titular heron, traditionally a symbol of progression and evolution, to explore themes of evolution and equilibrium, that delicate relationship between balance and change.
But despite this evolution, all the things we liked about Nassau on Hoss are still present. ‘Whatever Brings You Peace of Mind’ has a sidewinding tropical lilt, suffused with peach-pink evening light. It’s a folk song but not as we know it, drawing on ambient and dream pop to transcend the earthy constraints of guitar and percussion, conjuring a sense of space and texture.
If that sounds like dusk, then, as its name suggests, ‘Risin’ Sun’ is a dawn song. Equal parts exotic and mellow, the track is built on minimally tranquil guitar and lyrics which have an almost mantra-like quality, simple lines recited to bring peace and hope to all.
“And I will never be lonesome
and I’ll never be alone
your thoughts are always with me
to carry me back home”
The opening of the instrumental ‘Long Arc’ sounds like a conventional folk song, the gentle acoustics soon joined by electric guitar that skates around with frictionless ease, while ‘Spring’ feels like it’s playing at half speed, infused with a sense of freedom, periods of almost silence punctuating what grows into a heartfelt slice of minimal synth pop. Closer ‘Ain’t it Time’ sounds like the culmination of everything that’s come before. It’s rich and warm and heady with subtle emotion, the crooning vocals at once relaxed and purposeful, stretching out to a leisurely five minutes full of rhetorical questions which point at larger issues of purpose and lifestyle.
It’s perhaps the most obvious nod to the overarching themes on the record, and one which makes renewed sense in light of the note the band wrote about the album: “This record was written and recorded throughout a series of big changes in both of our lives… Throughout all of this – we asked both ourselves and each other a lot of big questions. We set out to make an album that represented the changes happening in our minds, our hearts and in our lives”.