Hailing from Cumberland, Maryland, Mowing is the debut from Cotton Jones co-frontman Michael Nau. Billed from promoters as a carefully chosen selection of solo recordings Nau has done over the years, don’t confuse this album as a collection of b-sides. Rather, it is a best-of compiled from some invisible discography. In a genre dominated by the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, and Bon Iver, Mowing garners some serious potential for Nau as calm muse after calm muse passes one by.
The first track on this album, “While You Stand,” doesn’t initially well-up any sort of interest until the lyrics really start to lay in to your emotions. “I am a mountain / high as can be / and yes, I am an ocean while you stand by me / but I am the fool, you know, anytime you don’t” is repeated with increasing heartbreak as it is subtly hummed over the jingle of melancholy chords. “The Glass” is a crooning, colorful postmodernist ballad fazed over a Bossa Nova atmosphere. This Bossa Nova tone carries into “Smooth Aisles” which couples this tropical sound with an extra emphasis on relatively vague introspective lyrics. Tracks “Your Jewel” and “Maralou” break in the xylophone and explore piano a little more before delving into the track “Mow,” which serves as a quiet interlude between the first half of the album and its folkier counterparts.
“So, So Long” is a return to the first track’s folky, broken-hearted apology. “Winter Beat” is a heavy flanger-ridden tromp with an crisp accompanying back-beat and twisting flute. “Good Moon” opens gently with “Can’t put a finger on it – something seems missin’ / it’s the night of the night and I’m star-fishin’,” lines that exemplify the strength/weakness of the album. Much of this album, including the following tracks “Unwound” and “In There,” is a little off the cob. It’s really cheesy. For some, this will ultimately be a selling point in this semi-folky compilation.
If you like your life like your mac – with a little cheese – this album carries the burden of melancholic good news. If you are emotionally lactose-intolerant, it’s best to either hang around the middle tracks of the album or not bother. It’s nigh on impossible to feel that there isn’t a reason that it rides on the heels of Valentine’s Day.
Mowing is a pretty, hopelessly romantic album and deserves some recognition as such. It suffers on the front of flowing completely seamlessly, but ultimately this is just nit-picking at a very solid debut.
Recommended If You Like: Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, Cotton Jones, the idea of a mega-folky Mac De Marco
Recommended Tracks: 1 (While You Stand), 2 (The Class), 3 (Smooth Aisles), 5 (Maralou)