red steppes’ debut A Mouth May Grow was rooted firmly in the topography of California; her sophomore release Arcs (Native Cat Recordings) is the fruit of a series of displacements, disturbances, and reorientations. Stylistically diverse, the album delivers minimalist guitar pop, mathy folk, and even a Peter Gabriel-tinged meditation on loss, finding equilibrium in songwriter Nika Aila States’ intimate vocals.
Arcs is plush with the kind of photographic lyricism States began exploring with A Mouth May Grow; songs fondly addressed to lovers are mindful of an inevitable transience, lullabies keep account both of the world’s smallest gestures and its great ruins, and a series of scenes unfold as a hymn of sustenance, a knowing salutation aimed at fellow travelers and sailors-by-the-wind.
States' return to the San Francisco bay – following a few years in Portland and one in Brooklyn, and motivated by a lovesickness for its hills and waterways – is an answer to the homecoming prayer of Leonine, Arcs' opening track. Prayers and eulogies dominate the next, as-yet-unnamed batch of songs; they reflect a generation's increasingly common preoccupation with wildfires, flash floods, disembodiment, disbelief, and the twin deaths of empire and climate normalcy.
I Did Not Speak It
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