Taking a look at the liner notes for the record you’ll see that it is produced by Mike McCarthy; best known for his work with Spoon, A Giant Dog and, locally, The Features and Forget Cassettes. Guest appearances from Matt Chamberlain (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam), Britt Daniel (Spoon), Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene) and many other notable names dot the credit list but never aurally presents themselves as front and centered. They’re nestled within the tracks but are far from featured players; secrets hiding in plain sight.
Les Ailes is the pseudonym of Rylie DeGarmo, a native Seattle-ite that found themselves traveling in the South and eventually set up shop. This location shifting may partially explain these surprising guests but, if we’re being honest here, the guests spots are the MacGuffin to pique your interest, the real draw here is the songwriting, the musical tone and the delivery of the songs themselves. DeGarmo’s vocals often register as detached but yearning; always front and center spinning a tale of something unrequited and unfulfilled. That’s esoteric but apt, as the record is highly effective at reaching down and really stirring an emotional response of longing.
“Full On” exemplifies this well with the combination of swirling, static-y, keys against an acceptance of friendship over romantic love. The lead single that pulled us in, “Lately”, manages to float between precariously delicate and declaratively mournful. This tone continues throughout the album, not in a repetitious manner but as an underlying theme.
Tennessee is an album that insists on multiple listens. You may be enticed to give it a whirl simply to spot the Broken Social Scene player but it’s guaranteed that you’ll stay for the lush and diverse instrumentation, the forlorn vocals and the sweeping moments of empowerment that surface through the softer moments.