Rarely does an artist appear, as if out of thin air, with a full body of work where lyrically lush songs carry you into other worlds as if they were your own. Erin Durant’s second album, Islands (coming June 21, 2019) is an odyssey of sorts, with songs that blur the line between reality and fiction. Produced by Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio, the eight songs deliver clarity within mystery and adventure in their uncluttered vignettes.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Durant has been based in New York for over a decade, all the while keeping track of the intricacies of life surrounding her and diligently developing her craft as a songwriter and performer. Lyrically, she composes most songs on piano, songs that tend to unfold structurally like a memory or a scene from a movie. As a performer, Durant usually transports a 232-pound ¾ size piano to venues without one. To hear her play the instrument makes plain her case for the extra effort. Her music is rooted in an ongoing dialogue between the physicality of her playing and the high, clear tone of her voice. Enmeshed with one another, it’s a display of an artist in full possession of herself and vision.
Islands sprawls out in front of you, weaving disparate stories into an overarching narrative. The songs touch on the ability to find meaning in minutiae. On “Take A Load Off” Durant tells a story of a weary traveler disoriented but pulled into revelry in an attempt to assuage their loss. The titular track “Islands” takes a similar tact, focusing on the conflicting process of attempting to find joy when joy seems lost. Islands is a continuously shifting landscape, with a knowing nod to the inevitability of these shifts.
Islands is preceded by Durant’s 2016 self-recorded album Blueberry Mountain released on New York label Flying Moonlight. Recording to tape in her apartment, the lo-fi quality and stripped-down arrangements led Durant to better understand the core layers of her music and from there where she wanted to go.
Durant’s collaboration with Malone introduced an expansiveness in sound. She knew she wanted the songs to be fuller. They welcomed instrumentation into the fold, including a complete rhythm section, the hum of pedal steel, and warm flourishes of brass and woodwinds. These are generous songs intended to breathe. They never fall into a grid. Instead, they pause and gallop, expand and contract, and pass through time unhurried.