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Feature Fridays Evening Machines, by Gregory Alan Isakov

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Album art from Gregory Alan Isakov album Evening Machines. Man standing in a field with clouds behind

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Each week, AU Music Library staff highlight a CD or artist from our collection. This semester our reviews will feature recent additions to the collection. This week, student assistant Cami Betchey reviews Evening Machines, by Gregory Alan Isakov.

One of the latest additions to the Music Library’s collection is the record Evening Machines by Gregory Alan Isakov. Born in South Africa, Isakov brings a slightly political and personal perspective to his latest pastoral record. Many of the tracks encapsulate the beauty of the American landscape that Isakov now occupies, after moving to Boulder, Colorado. Evening Machines takes on a darker edge on tracks such as “Dark, Dark, Dark” and “Caves,” giving the record a more unique and diversified tone than his previous works.

“San Luis” stands out distinctly against Isakov’s other work. Written about the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, the piece opens with a simple acoustic guitar but evolves into a lush piece saturated with female vocals, strings, and echoing percussion. The words evoke a sense of lost love and memories beginning to fade. “Weightlessness, no gravity, were we somewhere in-between? I’m a ghost to you, you’re a ghost to me a birds-eye view of San Luis.” Falling into this song feels like falling under dark water; slowly the listener is enveloped into the dense and layered instrumental sounds. The melancholic lyrics though which Isakov reminisces on the past gives the song a haunting and dark edge.

Another standout on the record is “Wings in All Black.” It is stripped down compared to the majority of the record and harkens back to his previous albums. Isakov chooses an acoustic guitar with minimal accompanying instrumentation. Isakov has stated in a recent podcast interview that this was his most emotionally difficult track to record on the album. With themes of death, rebirth, and new beginnings, the song is a journey of coming to terms with the losses that occur in life. Isakov’s lone vocals on this track support this idea along with the simple piano and guitar, however, its upbeat tone and major tonality contrast the darker ideas prevalent throughout the song.

It is this mix of light and dark that characterizes this record. Overall Evening Machines is a beautifully made and deeply emotional record; I would recommend it to anyone who has interest in folk revival and Americana music. 

Evening Machines is available on CD at the Music Library. If you like this album, you might also enjoy The Creek Drank the Cradle by Iron & Wine (reviewed by Jakob Tracey here), Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens (reviewed by Cami Betchey here), or Babel by Mumford & Sons (reviewed by student assistant Matt Francisco here).