The solo output from Orenda Fink is only three records deep, but swings and varies wildly from album to album. As one half of Saddle Creek group Azure Ray, Fink wasn’t so much a Lennon to Maria Taylor’s McCartney as she was a Harrison. She was more experimental, more willing to take a chance on something bigger. Fink came out of the solo gate with the Haitian-influenced Invisible Ones, switched to the gorgeous country/folk of Ask the Night, and now on her new album, Blue Dream, dives headfirst into ethereal bedroom pop. While it is definitely a change of gears from anything she has released previously, and has a consistent exploration of the subconscious throughout, Blue Dream falls short of anything exciting or daring.
Fink was inspired to write the songs for Blue Dream after her beloved dog of 16 years, Wilson, passed away. She slipped into a deep depression afterward and began seeing a psychotherapist who specialized in dream analysis. Through these sessions, which included writing in a dream journal every day, the ideas of the album came forth. Fink began mining her brain for answers to her questions about death, the seeming helplessness of a life just headed toward death, and how we as humans deal with that life. These answers come out in songs like “You Can be Loved”, where Fink sings, “It’s what you take, ’cause nothing ever goes how you want in life/ When beauty fades, she’ll be its ghost, so put your arms into mine,” over the top of Modest Mouse-like bouncing guitars and hissing cymbals.
The song, like most on the album, floats on a mist of Fink’s layered vocals and an endless expanse of reverb. The music fits remarkably with the excavation of the subconscious, and on tracks such as the hymn-like “Holy Holy” and the direct ode to Wilson, “Poor Little Bear”, the music is simple and beautiful. But over the length of the album, it gets a bit stale and tiring. Fink’s vocals float infinitely in a sea of echo, layering, and clean guitars throughout; the equation works on singular instances, but after 10 songs it’s too much — like a relaxation tape in a spa. The idea may be a dreamlike meditation, and that fits, but on the whole it becomes unremarkable over the span of 35 or so minutes. Fink has written a sonically pretty album from both the heart and the mind, but her hopes, fears, and answers get lost in the overwhelming fog of distance and space.
Essential Tracks: “You Can Be Loved”, “Holy Holy”, and “Poor Little Bear”