Fort Worth's Rachel Gollay Releases Album 'The Edge of April' | Dallas Observer

Fort Worth's Rachel Gollay Seeks Release in Tension on New Album The Edge of April

One of the sharpest artists in North Texas is back with a gorgeous collection of songs.
Fort Worth's Rachel Gollay has an exquisite new  album, The Edge of April.
Fort Worth's Rachel Gollay has an exquisite new album, The Edge of April. D Anson Brody
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The tension inherent in Rachel Gollay’s latest album, The Edge of April, is right there in the title of its opening song: “Optimistic (Time is Running Out),” dropped — fittingly — at the tail end of March.

Gollay is exceedingly specific about words, tones, moods and intentions. It’s one of the reasons why, despite being an active musician for nearly a decade, she and her bandmates have produced only three full-length records. (April is the follow-up to 2019’s Override, which was preceded, nearly five years earlier, by her debut, 2014’s Built for Love.)

To be clear, that’s not a condemnation so much as an acute craving for more. This studious approach — and a balance between an idea’s first blush and its eventual blossoming — extends to the creation as well.

“I write typically with just guitar and voice on a [voice] memo, and in some cases, create a little looping sample and sing over it as the kernel of a song,” Gollay said in a recent email exchange. “From there it’s sent to [producer] Russell [Jack], who workshops the direction the song will go tempo-wise and rhythmically and starts to arrange it out.”

Taking these leaps are easier when you know who’s jumping off the cliff with you. Gollay returns to the same clutch of collaborators again and again (as with her prior two LPs, Jack again sits in the producer’s chair, while multi-instrumentalist Joshua Ryan Jones, bassist Billy Naylor and trumpeter Jay Jennings return as performers), all of whom patiently wait for her.

There is also a sense, three albums in, that these infrequent collections of songs, accrued thoughtfully over a series of months, are as much an opportunity for Gollay to internally touch base as they are a chance for listeners to get a fresh taste of her singular talents.  

“Russell asked the questions, ‘What do we want to get from this album? What do we want from the process?’ And we unanimously agreed that we wanted to really take our time enjoying the process of collaboration, and make songs that we love listening to,” Gollay said via email. “While I like to perform, creating the music in the first place has become my favorite aspect, so we really embraced that.”            

What is most impressive about Gollay’s music is that the sense of meticulousness is sensed rather than seen — even on a relatively straightforward track like the deeply gorgeous “I Want It,” there are all manner of sonic flourishes (a fillip of trumpet, a blush of synth) percolating around the perimeter.

Indeed, nothing of the 11-track Edge of April feels fussed over, but neither does it seem thrown together in two weeks, the clock ticking on studio time. Instead, there’s an intimacy (“Flyover,” with its sparkling acoustic spine and closely miked vocals) juxtaposed with impulsiveness (“Optimistic (Time is Running Out)),” which begins as a luminous, mid-tempo shuffle, pivots to a gloriously anarchic climax, full of crashing drums, stacked vocals and wailing guitar) that, again, returns us to the sensation of tension.

On the album’s Bandcamp page, Gollay makes the implicit explicit in a brief description of the record: “A collection of songs capturing life in contradiction, and what it feels like to exist in moments of transition,” it reads in part. Such a statement begs the question: Is Gollay finding some measure of peace in processing her life through her art?

“I think this speaks to the part of me that is exploring the tension between process and outcome, both in life, but also when it comes to music,” Gollay said via email. “We celebrate goals and finish lines, but sometimes blink and miss it all unfolding. It’s become cliché but we’re also living through a time of very sharpened contradictions and polarization — culturally, politically — where it pays off to keep our eyes on a better future as we struggle through the present.

“That all comes through in personal and universal ways in the record, and much of it I’m not usually fully conscious of until I sit down and process it with Russell.”

The Shape of Sound

Three records in, it’s safe to say Jack is as essential to the sound and feel of Gollay as the singer and songwriter — a sentiment with which Gollay readily agrees.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to bring ideas to the table and have that energy matched in ways I often don’t expect,” Gollay wrote of the pair’s partnership. “He’s also an excellent accountability partner in making sure whatever is rattling around in my brain actually makes it onto a recording, and with this album especially, provided some really crucial creative prompting that helped some of the songs get over the finish line.

“He shapes the songs sonically, but doesn’t stand in their way, if that makes sense — which is very much the approach I take when writing.”            

Those shapes have steadily evolved over a decade, as Gollay has consistently broadened her stylistic palette from her debut onward, incorporating new approaches while retaining the core of her songcraft. “Ready,” a late album highlight, finds Gollay stepping almost fully into an electronic realm more often associated with the likes of Tame Impala or MGMT than with a primarily acoustic-based singer-songwriter from Fort Worth’s Near Southside.

In that vein, another first for Gollay here is the wordless interludes — “Moon Spell” and the album-closing “Olive Grove” — that punctuate the record.            

As for any future live performances, Gollay intends to bring things full circle: “I plan to go back to basics with these songs and perform them as they emerged — acoustic and voice, perhaps with some additional surprises, locally,” she wrote in her email, citing the inaugural Lost N Sound Festival in Fort Worth as a possible showcase.            

If The Edge of April began in those spaces of conflict — a tug between what’s now and what’s next, shifting from one season to another — it concludes as an exhale, delivering the listener (and its creator) to somewhere beyond, a gradual arrival at catharsis.

With April’s release, the wait begins anew for the next Gollay album, but as she’s shown throughout her career to date, the interval is always worth it            

“If not glimmers of radical optimism, I hope listening to the album helps people feels just a little more breathing room, spaciousness, in whatever kind of moment they find themselves in,” Gollay said. “I think we will continue needing that kind of healing well to draw from in the coming years to weather whatever comes, and art is a powerful way we can access that kind of space.”
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