Meg Baird’s songs are rarely made up of tidy stories. In fact, for Meg, mystery itself is often the medium. With ‘Furling’, Meg’s fourth album under her own name, she explores the breadth of her musical fascinations and the environments around them - the edges of memory, daydreams spanning years, loose ends, loss, divergent paths, and secret conversations under stars. ‘Furling’ moves through these varied spaces with the slippery, misty cohesiveness of a dream - guided by an ageless, stirring voice that remains singular and unmistakable.
Since co-founding the beguiling and beautiful Espers in the mid-aughts amid Philadelphia’s fertile underground music community, Meg’s solo recordings have constituted just a fraction of her work.
Her first solo LP, the disarmingly out-of-time ‘Dear Companion’ (2007), saw her carve a quiet, sunlit space away from the flickering swirl of Espers. Since her last solo releases, ‘Seasons on Earth’ (2011) and ‘Don’t Weigh Down the Light’ (2015), Meg has lent thunderous drumming, lead vocal, and poetry to Heron Oblivion (Sub Pop) on an album that garnered praise from the New York Times and made Mojo’s Top Ten Albums Of 2016 list. She collaborated with harpist Mary Lattimore on the mesmerizingly hazy ‘Ghost Forests’ (2018). She’s played drums with Philadelphia scuzz-punks Watery Love (In The Red, Richie Records) and explored her deep familial folk roots in the Baird Sisters (Grapefruit Records). She also contributed her vocal arrangements to albums from Sharon Van Etten, Kurt Vile, Will Oldham and Steve Gunn, and toured with Angel Olson, Dinosaur Jr., Bill Callahan, Thurston Moore and Bert Jansch, among others.
Yet ‘Furling’ is the album that most irreverently explores the span of her work and musical touchstones. It showcases her natural tether to 1960s English folk traditions. But it also reveals her deep love for soul balladry, the solitary musings of Flying Saucer Attack and Neil Young shackled to his piano deep in the foggy pre-dawn, dubby Bristol atmospherics, the melancholy memory collage of DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing’, and the delicious, Saturday night promise of St. Etienne.
‘Furling’ was primarily recorded at Louder Studios by Tim Green (Bikini Kill, Nation of Ulysses, Melvins, Wooden Shjips). Additional piano and vocal recording were captured at Panoramic Studios in Stinson Beach, CA with Jason Quever (Papercuts). It was mastered in Brooklyn by Heba Kadry, who mixed Bjork’s ‘Utopia’ and mastered albums for Slowdive, Cass McCombs and Beach House.
For all its adornments, ‘Furling’ remains deeply intimate. The entire album was performed by Meg and her long-time collaborator, partner, and Heron Oblivion bandmate Charlie Saufley. While her prior solo work hinted at more expansive horizons, ‘Furling’ explores the idea of Meg Baird as a band much more freely. Venturing beyond the musical confines of fingerstyle guitar, she plays drums, mellotron, organs, synths, and vibraphone over her piano and guitar foundations. Her distinctive, simultaneously elegiac and uplifting vocals, meanwhile, connect surreal dream montages, graft sunshine sonics to swooning mediations on romantic solidarity in trying times, and weave odes to the simple gestures of friendship - and the loss of family and friends.
This rich sound world makes the songs a varied bunch: ‘Twelve Saints’ mates Pacific sunset ambience and Pink Floyd pastoral to a meditation on mortality and escape. The infectious and kinetic ‘Will You Follow Me Home’ contemplates hope and longing through the looking glass of a Jimmy Miller-era-Stones strut. And in the closing piece, ‘Wreathing Days’, language disintegrates over tone clusters that feel somewhere between falling and flying.
‘Wreathing Days’ also reveals much about Meg’s mastery of contrast - situating the dear and delicate adjacent to chaos. And while it’s true that some songs on ‘Furling’ grapple with humanity’s existential unknowns in stark terms, they primarily revel in the mysteries that hide in nature and humanity at their most ordinary. ‘Furling’ lives in the notion that whole universes of experience, enlightenment, elation and ecstasy can bloom in these corners.
Star Hill Song
The Saddest Verses
Will You Follow Me Home?