New Hampshire-born and Maine-made signer-songwriter paradigm Ray LaMontagne has released his sixth studio album, Ouroboros. The one thing immediately apparent about this album is the amount of symbolism that is packed into it. For example, for those familiar with mythology, the term “ouroboros” seems familiar. The classic image of the serpent swallowing its tail is a symbol of rebirth and eternal return that is is rampant within the theme of this album. In its grand, organized half-blues and half-folk state, Ouroboros is nothing more than a reaffirmation of the talent of Ray LaMontagne and the solidity of quality that he delivers time and time again.
There is a parallel that can be drawn between LaMontagne’s last album, Supernova, and the current one—and that is the return to a more classic rock return to roots. However, the large departure here is the deep and looming nature of this album which reflects more Pink Floyd and bluesy Led Zeppelin-like riffs than the California soft-rock vibe one would hear on his former album. It is also no accident that this album has been split in to two parts of four—this return to vinyl format seems deliberate in process.
The album’s first half opens with a pulsing thump into a rising folk rock melody “Homecoming.” The tone delves into “Hey, No Pressure” which, through the bluesy guitar, opens into a dreamy post-’60s chorus rattling about the increasing stress to perform in a cutthroat world. “The Changing Man” is probably the most recognizable reference to the symbolism and tone of the album. The guitar rolls over the lyrics that delineate the state of constant rebirth and leads its high chorus and looming chords into “While It Still Beats.” The dark and ethereal fuzz of the guitar dips into what almost sounds like a Pink Floyd tribute by Bruce Springsteen. The tone grows monumental and then at once much lighter.
Part two follows with “In My Own Way,” a Neil Young instrumentation á la Crazy Horse or Hawks and Doves that cracks its solemn lyrics with a buzzing riff before receding again. “Another Day” is much more classic to LaMontagne’s sound—folky and swinging with seasonal lyrical vibe. “A Murmuration of Starlings” and “Wouldn’t It Make a Lovely Photograph” both follow relative suit in tone, though the former really stands out. Completing what is a deep and hollow sound, “Photograph” completes the album with the repetition of a final line “Never gonna hear this song on the radio.” If that is a challenge that Ray LaMontagne is trying to incite, he is going to fail.
Recommended if You Like: Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen
Recommended Tracks: 2 (Hey, No Pressure), 4 (While It Still Beats), 5 (In My Own Way), 8 (Wouldn’t It Make a Lovely Photograph)