Ray LaMontagne’s latest album, Supernova, is a sound out of another world. Gone is the folk sound that put Ray on all of our collective music grids. Taking a page out of similar guitar-folk (and beard-bearing) icon Iron & Wine, LaMontagne dives into the past to reinvent his sound. Blending signature styles and sounds from classic tunes of 60’s rock with his creative method of songwriting, Supernova is an evocative exploration in the evolution of sound.
Tracks like Airwaves bring back similarities to the Doors, the Zombies, and even Simon & Garfunkel in melody and composition. Strangely, Ray’s whispered-growling chants odd lines (like what sounds like gibberish then “jump-shot”). Guitar rock of the 60s similar to CCR and Foghat shine in songs like Julia the title-track Supernova. Oija has the sound of a few different popular 60’s and 70’s folk rock songs blended together as a backdrop to Ray’s storytelling ballad.
The references to 60s folk icons and music should come as no surprise to followers of LaMontagne’s history. His first flavors in music were made opening for songwriting legends John Gorka and Jonathan Edwards. Touring and recording with Jennifer Stills (daughter of Stephen Stills, one of LaMontagne’s inspirations in music) is another vital piece to this evolution.
Borrowing pieces and ingredients from music’s past is not a downside to the album, nor a mark against a maturing songwriter. If anything, Supernova presents a dynamic in LaMontagne’s journey of finding his voice amidst a massive influx of indie singer-songwriters trying to follow his (and others) shoes of making songwriting as a career profession. The former shoe-salesman’s journey from day job to music as a profession has been chronicled endlessly. Most indie musicians live duel lives of part time laborers during the day to fund their music aspirations. Music can be financially rewarding once the masses know and follow you, as Ray experienced with the success of Trouble. His launch into a successful following over the past eight years has been the inspiration for countless others in indie music to attempt to do the same.
The song on this album that will eventually get the most praise will not be the one that deserves it. Strangely, Drive-In Movies certainly should be played on your iPod, computer, or radio outlet. It’s a great song that ebbs and flows well. However, Smashing is the track that takes the case, at least for me, on this record. There are some great lines of music and lyric that arrive together at the perfect time, like the bridge where the melody shifts.
“I look at your and I don’t know who I am. I look at you and see my life is a sham. Am I just uncommon? I fooled you once and I can do it again.”
This line alone seems to be a secret code for what LaMontagne has in store for us as his fans. Those he fooled into thinking he was a flash-in-the-pan folk musician with a deep gutteral vocal style will find something altogether different with Supernova. Take a trip into the past and the future at the same time with this unique release.