There’s really nothing like the concert experience. From road trips to overpriced venue beers to unforgettable performances, every show’s pros and cons extrapolate from the music to create new, unique meaning. One of my favorite aspects of live shows, and specifically tours, is the ability for larger acts to introduce their fans to lesser-known artists who deserve just as much praise. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how Deafheaven‘s first headlining tour after Sunbather introduced me to Wreck and Reference and made Pallbearer “click” for me. Fast forward to early May of this year, when I caught wind of Iceage‘s upcoming tour supporting their fantastic new album Beyondless. Not only has the band added one of my favorite venues to the itinerary (3S Artspace in Portsmouth, New Hampshire), they’re also bringing along harpist Mary Lattimore as the tour’s opening act. This personal revelation happened to coincide with the release of her lush, gorgeous new album Hundreds of Days, a pristine display of arresting sonic beauty that I can’t wait to see played live in a few weeks.
I never would have guessed that my introduction to music like this would come from a Danish art punk band, but the world moves in mysterious ways, doesn’t it? Lattimore is hardly new to her craft; Hundreds of Days is preceded by three studio albums, three collaborative albums, a compilation and an EP, all released since 2012. It’s truly a wonder I haven’t heard of her until now, but at the same time, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect entry point than Hundreds of Days. A common question surrounding music recommendations is some variation of “where should I start,” and for good reason. A poor first impression can completely turn someone off from an artist who might sound better in a different musical context. With Hundreds of Days, Lattimore’s extraordinary musical voice inspires nothing short of an awed silence. Though I’ll admit I haven’t yet ventured back into her back catalog, that’s only due to my obsession with Hundreds of Days, and I’m bracing myself for the potential album in her discography that could feel as poignant as this album. It’d sure have to be a doozy to accomplish that.
A version of this sentiment has been said countless times before, but Hundreds of Days truly does defy simple genre classification. This should come as no surprise due to the prominence of harp on the album; save for Joanna Newsom, there are hardly any major artists using harp this prominently. Lattimore’s music differs greatly from Newsom’s work, however, as Lattimore stays nearly muted the entire album save for some angelic vocals shading the backdrop. For the most part, Lattimore allows a simple, intricately connected combination of harp, piano and effects to produce some of the most beautiful music you’ll hear this year, at the very least. Though ambient in its atmospheres and electroacoustic by its instrumental setup, Lattimore’s music falls more appropriately among a love triangle of new age, modern classical and ethereal wave, creating whimsical worlds of sound that shimmer like the sun joining the horizon over a waveless ocean.
From the moment “It Feels like Floating” begins, you’ll agree wholeheartedly and give in to the all-consuming waves of gorgeous sound. The track feels like a stirring mixture of shoegaze and dream pop played acoustically, removed of its blanket of effects and reverb but still expansive and emotionally stirring. Without very much in the way of inorganic effects, Lattimore relies instead on her talents as a songwriter, and even if her performances were entirely acoustic, they would still yank at the listener’s heartstrings due to their inherent written beauty. “Never Saw Him Again” takes on a more effect-heavy approach to prove Lattimore knows how to incorporate these elements well, while “Baltic Birch” feels like something Tom Krell should croon over on the next How to Dress Well album.
This is perhaps Lattimore’s greatest strength as a songwriter: her playing spins its own narratives while leaving plenty of lingering wonderment for listeners to craft their own conclusions and branch off into their own sonic adventures. It’s pure bliss laid out for auditory enjoyment, and I owe it all to Iceage for providing Lattimore with the spotlight she obviously deserves. You owe it to yourself to experience what Lattimore has to offer; regardless of your typical genre preferences, anyone who appreciates beauty will find something worthwhile on Hundreds of Days. Every moment offers a new excuse to close your eyes, well up with tears and unleash daydreams of whatever constitutes your own personal inner peace.