If you heard Laura Veirs' 2004 release Carbon Glacier, you were transported. Veirs' sparse narrative lyrics, carried by a clear, indelible voice cast from the same material as Lisa Loeb's and Liz Phair's, took you to a stripped winter cabin, and you carried vivid flashes of memory—a thrashing river, stones frozen into the earth, stark afternoon light wearing down the snow drifts in a silence so incredibly absolute—as if the album had given you a singular experience of solitude.
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The title of her latest, Saltbreakers, and its album art, a mythic nautical panorama, promise another conduit into something otherworldly, but the invocation winds up much more like a seaside tchotchke shop, stuffed to its cluttered, dusty rafters with cheap and useless junk. Her narratives are disorganized and feel as contrived as a 12-year-old's sonnet, just a hodgepodge of winding, unremarkable stories punctuated with the standard lit-rocker archetypes: fire, moon, the tide, a crow, ship's captains, mermaids, rainstorms, even a nightingale. "Don't Lose Yourself" edges into anthemic, tripping drum loop redemption, but borrows too thanklessly from the Postal Service. The album coasts along on a wave of slickly produced, laid-back acoustic instrumentation, leaving a genuine fan wistful to see Veirs having gone the easy-listening, adult contemporary way of so many of her femme folk predecessors.