Published Feb 22, 2017As a bartender, San Francisco's Sarah Bethe Nelson knows a thing or two about human interaction. On Oh, Evolution, Nelson tells moving stories of the world around her over a DIY sound.
Aptly titled, Oh, Evolution marks the next stage of her breezy, coastal mid-fi sound, last heard on 2015's Fast-Moving Clouds. Tracks are more layered, effects-driven and longer here, though to varying degrees of success: "Hazy" evokes a sense of elevation and intangibility thanks to the phaser and tremolo, but "Sugar Factory" is entirely too long at seven minutes, never managing to reach the explosive culmination it feels like it's building towards.
Newcomers would not be remiss to draw comparisons to singer-songwriters like Angel Olsen or Basia Bulat, who share a similar affinity for melancholy in their storytelling styles. The record's crowning emotional achievement is "Face the Waves," a devastating ballad of love lost on which Nelson confesses, "I'm tired of this dimension."
Above all, Sarah Bethe Nelson is a storyteller, and Oh, Evolution is an anthology of heartache, dreaming and contemplation. While these eight tracks rarely involve an epiphany either narratively or musically, their anecdotal nature is a reminder that not every story has an ending, and that the memories that stick with us are often the ones we don't fully understand. (Burger Records)