The world keeps turning. Day gives way to night, which gives way to a new day, and on and on. In due course, a new week, month and year arrive, and tears shed way back when linger, still, in the recesses of memory, yet the heartache is lessened. Mourning morphs into afternoon. It’s the cycle of life and love.
Loose Future finds Courtney Marie Andrews miles beyond the heartbreak that inspired her 2020 long player, Old Flowers. The album opens with the title track, which finds her unsure about lowering her guard with a potential love interest (“I have learned from my mistakes/There’s parts of me I can’t give away”) and keeping things casual even though, by song’s end, she realizes the reverse is true: “Who am I kidding? We’re halfway there/But I’ll keep pretending that I don’t care.”
Old Flowers, her 2020 meditation on love and loss, featured a sparse production accented by drummer James Krivchenia’s martial beat, while May Your Kindness Remain (2018) channeled the Band’s expansive sound. Honest Life, her 2016 breakthrough, deftly blended folk with Americana. Here, she employs a swath of different textures and lighter hues. “Older Now” which features knee pats, a wood block and bag of rocks in its rhythm section, finds her ready for change but unsure if she can do so. “On the Line,” for its part, is a ruminative number about how she’s become accustomed to moving on.
“It sounds like the Staves,” Diane said of “Satellite” when we first listened to the album on Monday night. The song features a whimsical arrangement driven, I think, by the Microcosm effects pedal and includes Courtney singing in a higher register—and with harmonies she supplies herself. Lyrically, it captures the moment when infatuation gives way to what comes next. Diane applied the same observation to a few of the songs that came before, and I have to admit: I agreed. This wasn’t the “future” I expected.
“She sounds more like herself here,” Diane observed of “These Are the Good Old Days.” Somewhere on social media, Courtney said the song came from something her family used to say when she was young. I’d like to think that they were Carly Simon fans, as the sentiment shared between “These Are the Good Old Days” and Carly’s “Anticipation” goes deeper than the phrase; and, in fact, it would be at home on any of Carly’s early ’70s albums. Both songs, in their way, champion mindfulness, the attention to the present moment. (We, as a people, spend far too much time looking back and/or looking ahead.)
The jaunty “Thinkin’ on You” opens Side 2. In another post on social media, she explained that she prefers the phrase to “I miss you,” as the latter “implies that something is missing from your life.” Here, the phrase is used as a jumping board to wish someone well. In “You Do What You Want,” she eschews mindfulness to bring clarity to a past relationship, admitting, “Often I remember times/With rose-colored glasses.” (Side note: most people do.) “Let Her Go” echoes Honest Life with its straightforward sentiment; I hear it as Courtney singing to herself about her younger self, but am likely wrong. In “Change My Mind,” the guard she sang about in the title track slips down a few more notches despite her “looking for new ways to be let down.” The 10 track, 32-minute album closes with “Me & Jerry,” a celebration of her new relationship and how it makes her feel. (“I’m out of my mind,” she sings near the end. That’s the alchemy of love, in a nutshell.)
When I first heard Honest Life in early 2017, I felt an instant familiarity with it; it was as if Courtney tapped into the collective unconscious and shared songs that had been with me forever and a day. The evolution of that folky sound into the more roots-oriented May Your Kindness Remain seemed natural, and both tilled the soil for Old Flowers—a truly mesmerizing song cycle, that is. (Call it her Blue or Interiors.) On that first listen Monday night, Loose Future didn’t resonate with me in quite the same way. It’s far from Neil going Kraftwerk, mind you, but just different enough to cause a double take in some songs.
But, as she sings in the title tune, “I just wanna take it slow/Don’t want to give a yes or no.” That’s always been my approach to new albums from favorite artists; we bring our preconceptions to the listening experience, after all, so if it’s not what we expected we sometimes ditch it to the (literal or figurative) shelf, never to be played again. On what’s likely my 20th listen, however, the album has taken on a life of its own. The slight sonic shifts now sound natural and perfect for the songs in question. I hear Loose Future as a good album with glimmers of greatness.