James Osland ~ Almond Drive

Almond Drive is dedicated to memories of a “safe and loving home,” and the people who made it that way.  The album is a panacea, offering warm hints of how to make it through a pandemic year with love.  Not everyone has such love, or such memories ~ for the rest of us, there’s music.  For some listeners, this may be a prime example of hiraeth, a longing for a past that never was, accompanied by the calm of knowing that such things exist somewhere over the rainbow.

“Tiny Happy People” references one of the oddest moments in pop history, when the normally morose R.E.M. teamed with Kate Pearson for the strangely ironic “Shiny Happy People.”  The song took on a life of its own, used in the original pilot for “Friends.”  Later, Michael Stipe told Space Ghost that he hated the song.  Too late, Michael!  Osland adjusts the title and rolls with the mood, the track atwitter with birds, bells, children, and distant traffic, setting a bucolic scene.  The combination of field recordings and ambience is one of the album’s most attractive qualities, apparent throughout the set.  It’s also a reminder of spring, and family outings, and the ability to express love through company.  Tilting toward the sun, the release looks back to halcyon days to draw hope for better days to come.  “The Scene of Our Everyday Lives” is rife with conversation – a dinner party, perhaps – something that once was everyday but has become rare in lockdown, helping us to appreciate it all the more.  Were we ever so aware that the everyday was such a treasure?

In “You’re Not Lost, You’re Here,” a cat meows in the rain, or – we hope – while looking out at the rain.  Osland’s guitar plays a sweet serenade.  There are no sunbeams in which to lay, but perhaps the feline remembers sunbeams and can imagine that sunbeams will return.  This is our current challenge as well, when all seems cloudy, to picture what lies beyond.  “And So My Summer Came To An End” would seem bittersweet had the album been released in fall, but is encouraging now that we’re more than halfway to summer.  “And Then I’d Turn My Thoughts Back To Linger Over Memories” suggests that the past need not be a mine field, but can become a field of gold.

Roy and Mary Jenkins ~ the real-life inspiration for the album ~ turned a house into a home.  In response, Osland makes music into a home, providing listeners with a place to lay their hats and their heads, if only for the duration of the tape.  You are safe.  You are loved.  (Richard Allen)

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