Laura Veirs’ sixth full-length, Saltbreakers, is a pretty, middle-of-the-road-less-traveled album that never sends you soaring too high, or drags you down too low. Her voice shines, and is the strongest aspect of her music, but the hum-drum guitars and seldom-used pianos may bore some. For others’ tastes, though, this is a great, introspective piece of work.
Regardless of the less-than-attention-grabbing backing music, I can listen to Laura sing all day long. I could listen to her sing the alphabet. I could listen to her read the phone book. Her voice has a certain vulnerability blanketed by an incredible strength. You may be compelled to try to pin-point exactly who she sounds like, but eventually you realize there’s no reason to compare. Her voice is uniquely her own, save for the brief moments in which it can evoke Tegan and Sara, Maja Ivarsson of the Sounds, or Joanna Newsom without all the loogies.
Her lyrics stick to her basic formulas of songwriting — galactic themes such as stars and moons; nautical themes such as oceans and sails; nature themes, such as nightingales and butterflies. Even though her lyrics are dreamlike and playful, it would be nice to cut through the metaphor to hear how Laura really feels about things. I mean really, really feels about things. Is she pissed off that an ex left her for someone else? Does she hate her dad? Does she ever drink herself silly while crying on the floor?
She comes close on the opening song, “Pink Light.” She leads with the lyric, “Sorry I was cruel/I was protecting myself.” But she immediately follows this personal line with the abstract by singing, “Drifting along with my swords out flying/tattering my own sails.” The album continues with these abstract, dream-like lyrics, and never really lets you into the ID of Laura.
The title track uses the same metaphors Laura prefers (“Chinese dragons incandescent;” “You will not burn me up/I’m a fallen leaf who keeps her green,”) but applies them in a more playful way. Dismissing the sigh-inducing, folky, down-tempo ballads, Laura puts these lyrics into a cute pop tune that is posed to land on the WB. The little smile this song evokes prepares you for the rest of the album which floats to the last track like the incoming tide — nothing extraordinary, but still intriguing. Something lacks from this album — it lacks a strong pulse, a punch-you-in-the-gut moment.
For those who love abstract lyrics about our natural surroundings as metaphors for our feelings, this album has everything you need. I'd like to see Laura open up and semote, to get really pissed off, or really happy, or really sad. And take those emotions and put them into lyrics, she’d have a homerun album.