TJO Where Shine New Lights LP (2014 Kranky)
released by Kranky January 2014
recorded by TJO 2011-2013 in Woodstock NY and Los Angeles CA
with contributions from
Daniel Littleton-guitar, piano, voice
Elizabeth Mitchell- voice
Corey Fogel-percussion, vibraphone
Jean Cook- violin, voice
Wilder Zoby- electric piano
TJO plays everything else
review by Paul Thompson at Pitchfork
""What you love is made of wind," Tara Jane O'Neil muses a little more than halfway through Where Shine New Lights, her first solo LP in five years. The deeply naturalistic Lights finds O'Neil—ex-Rodan bassist, painter, constant collaborator, and tireless solo experimenter—carving scenery out of sound. Yet it's the record's very next line that really gets to the heart of Lights: "you will not be this shape again." Lights, her first LP for Kranky, is quite possibly the finest merging of the chameleonic O'Neil's song-based work and her more experimental side. But combing through the catalog for comparison-points doesn't quite get at what makes Lights so striking. Lights is a peculiar thing: impeccably designed, with every thrum positioned just so, yet entirely malleable, different every time you come across it.
Lights, like much of O'Neil's solo work, occupies a space between traditional songcraft and more experimental fare, weaving ghostly drones and incidental noises through hushed, unhurried post-folk. Throughout Lights, O'Neil brings the two sides as close as they've ever come before, meticulously plotting out every earthy strum and faraway clatter. Swirling opener "Welcome" bleeds a increasingly ominous whoosh into the heavy-lidded, borderline groovy "Wordless in Woods", which makes its way into the slowpoke folk-pop of "This Morning Glory". Each move is unhurried, each note is placed just so. But, for all the precision of the arrangements, Lights is the farthest thing from rigid. O'Neil's been careful to leave space in these songs, to let them unfurl at a ruminative pace, to burrow secrets way down in the mix. It leaves Lights feeling practically habitable, a good place to get some thinking done.
O'Neil casts an optimstic glow over much of Lights, but its tone is always in flux. "Bellow Below as Above" is an ominous, shapeshifting, just-before-sunrise dirge that slowly climbs its way into a gnarled sort of beauty. Little instrumental exhalations complicate the haunting Brit-folk of "Elemental Finding", while the oblong near-slowcore of "The Signal, Lift" unwinds over a bed of whispering cymbals, growing more intense by the minute. O'Neil's a fine lyricist—look no further than "Elemental Finding"—but much of Lights' vocalizing is wordless, evoking feelings rather than spelling them out. Lights is rarely less than beautiful, but between the often-sparse arrangements and impressionistic singing, these abstractions require patience on the listener's part. Give Lights your total concentration, and it opens up completely; start flipping through your phone, and it vanishes into the air. But it's that very pliancy that makes the album so easy to return to; it's harmoniously balanced, yet as liable to change along with the quality of the light, a distressed folk record on one listen, and a sumptuous, swirling exploratory drone record the next. O'Neil's certainly made her share of enrapturing, enveloping music. But I'm not sure she's ever made one quite as transportive—or, for that matter, as alive—as Where Shine New Lights."