Published May 15, 2020Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo is a trailblazer in the world of psychedelia, but his solo project Rose City Band — named after his hometown of Portland — is all about getting back to basics.
Summerlong, a timely follow-up to the project's self-titled debut, is breezy. Patient and smooth, it swaps the hazy whimsicality of Johnson's other work for the simplicity of good songwriting. It's nostalgic folk that dreams in tangible textures, and stays grounded even as it floats a few feet off the ground.
Johnson's distinct vocal style is still impossible to miss, but here it is surrounded by thinner layers of instrumentation, deepening the sense of narrative within ambience. While the minimalism of 2019's Rose City Band was a little more straightforward, Summerlong dares to wander, unravelling melodic possibilities like a slow-blowing breeze. The result is at once twangy and smooth, intricate and easygoing.
Summerlong showcases Johnson's prowess as a songwriter, as effortlessly as the sun shines on a clear summer day. (Thrill Jockey)