Review: Indigo De Souza, Any Shape You Take (Saddle Creek Records)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:33 pm August 25, 2021

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Indigo De Souza, Any Shape You Take (2021, Saddle Creek)

I gave up a long time ago trying to understand the strategy behind Saddle Creek Records’ roster decisions. Mad genius? Shot in the dark? Take your pick. Let’s look at the breakdown:

Many are those of the art/noise set who applauded the release of Spirit of the Beehive’s Entertainment.Death — a recording I equate to watching a fine arthouse film that you can admire while seated in the dark but will likely never see again, unless you’re stoned (which I’ve never been). Young Jesus, another recent addition, falls along the same category. Both acts are hugely popular with critics, but I wonder how well they sell (or get played on streaming services, which these days is the mark of success).

Then there’s the cadre of forlorn singer/songwriter projects like Tomberlin, Black Belt Eagle Scout and Hand Habits. Meg Duffy of HH is a major talent and I love her work. But, man, you have to be in the right mood for it. 

Then there’s the more accessible indie-rock staples on the roster — Hop Along, Stef Chura, Disq. These are the most predictable and the most enjoyable. Hop Along and Francis Quinland get their share of Sirius XMU plays; and Disq was my choice for a Saddle Creek breakout band. While I love Disq’s latest album, it’s hardly broken through in a way that, say, Big Thief has (and who is now long gone from Saddle Creek).

This is a long pre-amble to say that Indigo De Souza doesn’t fall into any of these categories, and yet, her new album, Any Shape You Take, is my favorite Saddle Creek release in the past few years. Ten songs, 38 minutes, not a dud in the bunch. Built on a framework of traditional modern indie pop, De Souza in some ways is old school in that she knows how to write a great hook, how to drop in a tasty power chord, where to bring in the rest of the band in a way that makes you look up from whatever you’re doing and PAY ATTENTION. 

The one-sheet that came with the record describes the daughter of musicians and her constant struggle to find her voice as she goes through painful relationships, and so on. These are songs about misplaced devotion and insecurity taken to a familiar level. You may be finding your own way, Indigo, but we’ve all been there. We’ve heard it before, but rarely as honestly or brutally straight-forward. 

Favorite tracks include “Darker than Death” “Die/Cry” and “Pretty Pictures” — pop nuggets that come in at 3 minutes or less. In fact, no song exceeds five minutes, including the closing masterpiece, “Kill Me,” that should have been the first track (instead of the auto-tune-heavy “17,” my least favorite of the bunch). Despite the heavy themes, this is a pop album and it, indeed, rocks, setting it apart from the cadre of depressing women singer/songwriters dominating indie these days like Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. 

De Souza is backed by a great band with a great rhythm section, though the materials presented with the one-sheet don’t list the personnel and only says “While her backing band has undergone shifts between releases, her sound has stayed tethered to her vision.” So, who knows who will be backing her when she plays at Slowdown in October?

It does say Indigo produced the album herself, teaming up with executive producer Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee, The War on Drugs) and engineers/producers Alex Farrar and Adam McDaniel. The production is quite stellar. Rating: Yes.

Indigo De Souza, Any Shape You Take, comes out Aug. 27 on Saddle Creek Records. Pre-order the album here.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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