If you’re looking for another generically-heartbroken Americana record, you’ve come to wrong place with Amanda Shires’ newest: To The Sunset. In fact, this album sounds more like victory than anything; it manages to be fierce and defiant, while showing hints of vulnerability in all of the right places. Full of lyrical complexity and adorned with a brilliant musical backing, this is something you don’t want to miss.
This is probably Shires’ best release yet. The concept of the album demands the listener’s attention, and represents a dramatic shift not only for Shires, but for the genre of Americana as a whole. In her interview with Rolling Stone’s Marissa R. Moss, Shires remarked “If you are making an Americana record, and you’re a woman, you have to play acoustic instruments and be fucking sad all the time. I did not want to do that.” She did anything but. This record sounds like driving into a supernova while wearing aviators. Tracks like “Eve’s Daughter” and “Break out the Champagne” are much heavier than any of her previous material, while “Parking Lot Pirouette” and “White Feather” are sonically reminiscent of My Piece of Land. As a whole, this one could be described as futuristic without being experimental, which I’m a fan of – I’d rather drink battery acid than listen to math rock, or anything that sounds close to it.
The real gold lies in the lyrics, though. Communication with the listener is kept honest, but yet intriguing and complex. While many songwriters create characters that seem distant or unrealistic to keep things interesting, Shires finds balance between personal experience and hyperbole to create a work that’s thoughtful and that an audience can connect with. If that’s not the goal of art, I don’t know what is.
The topics addressed in To The Sunset are heavy ones, to say the least; her narrators discuss seeking independence, confronting the attempted suicide of a loved one, and acting like the person you’re meant to be. Trying to make sense of such concepts, and subsequently relaying that to an audience not only requires insight, but bravery. By the way, there’s also plenty of folks in the music industry who still believe that female artists don’t deserve the same amount of airtime as a male artist. That’s an issue, whether it’s conscious thinking or not. Speaking out against this isn’t easy, and Shires is a champion for the cause. That’s fearlessness right there.
For me, this is going to be one of the more memorable releases of 2018, and I’m excited to see the influence that this work is going to have on future artists.
If you enjoyed this album, or even if you disagree with my thoughts, feel free to share in the comments below. This is something worth talking about.