Before Mumford and Sons ushered in the folk rock earlier this decade, Ray LaMontagne was having modest success with his straight from a log cabin in New Hampshire esthetic. And he managed to find that success with minimal promotion. It seemed like Ray would release an album, go on tour, perform on the occasional late night talk show, and then go back to the woodland of New Hampshire until the next album. The only other promotion I have ever seen him do was VH1 Storytellers during his last album cycle.
For his fourth album, it seems like Lamontagne is gunning for the mainstream as he just released his first music video and brought in a big name producer for Supernova in Dan Aurbach who won the Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Grammy last year (if 2013 was the year of Pharrell, hopefully 2014 turns into the year of Auebach between this, Lana Del Rey, and his own The Black Keys album). The first single and title track was his poppiest song to date. But the thing is, it is pop in seventy’s pop rock radio from the seventies kind of was. It sounds like it would fit in between Steve Miller Band and Bob Seger on seventies AM radio, not between Adele and The Lumineers today. Ojai follows that trend sounding like it was heavily influenced by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Lodi.
As a whole Supernova is Ray’s weirdest album to date. Sure there are those seventies pop rock ditties, but he also goes psychedelic many other tracks. The album opens with Lavender which sounds like something out of Haight-Ashbury in the late sixties. And that hippie vive continues on songs like Airwaves, Pick Up Gun, and No Other Way with its lyrics about flowers will inspire images of the ultimate hippie ode: San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Hair) while Smashing sounds like less adventurous Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd.
But the best track on Supernova is probably the most contemporary. She’s the One is a pure modern day rock song which sounds like what it may sound like if Ray did front The Black Keys as a trio. The song has the same dirty blues the duo is known for and it goes really well with Ray’s gritty voice. The closest Lamontagne gets to his folk rock is Drive-In Movies which closes out the album, and just like the subject, it is hard to reminiscence over his old sound after sitting through a mostly psychedelic album.
Song to Download – She's the One
Supernova gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.