Published May 16, 2018After stepping into the tone zone with Dan Auerbach for 2014's unexpected rock breakout Supernova, enigmatic folk artist Ray LaMontagne recruited like-minded producer Jim James (of My Morning Jacket fame) for his next album.
The result was Ouroboros — a sprawling epic similar in style to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. Upon receiving the album, his longtime label, RCA Records, didn't know what to do with it — what kind of modern major label artist releases a pseudo-concept album in 2016?
So, it sat on the shelf for over a year; speaking with Rolling Stone upon the album's release, all he hoped was that "the real music heads [would] get it." They did.
Ouroboros was a minor triumph for the oft-pigeonholed singer-songwriter, allowing him to spread his wings and move away from the Starbucks compilation-worthy sounds of his early career, if just for a little while.
Now, sounding as assured as it gets, he returns with Part of the Light, a soft and sumptuous collection of self-produced songs recorded at his home studio that, while not as sonically or conceptually consistent as his last two albums, features some of the finest songs of his career.
The seaside shimmer of album opener "To the Sea" is perfect for a summer's day, and penultimate track "No Answer Arrives" and closer "Goodbye Blue Sky" would make David Gilmour past and present proud. Meanwhile, lead single "Such A Simple Thing" stands in the spotlight, thanks to its tasteful palette and LaMontagne's characteristic heartfelt croon.
Elsewhere, the album's biggest lags weirdly come from its most classic rock-indebted songs — "Paper Man" and "As Black As Blood Is Blue" — both of which could easily pass for a pair of throwaways from his two most recent releases.
Suffice to say, Part of the Light is an odd mix, but not a totally surprising one. Seven albums in, LaMontagne has hit his sweet spot — maybe not artistically, but personally, professionally and perhaps even spiritually. Songs like "Part of the Light" and "Let's Make It Last," with their musings on life as a rat race and the passage of time, reek of the kind of mindfulness that comes with being at peace with oneself.
It's a comfortable collision of songs that probably won't gain many new listeners, but should find a home in real fans' collections, despite its lack of risk-taking. (Sony)