Sweet and gentle and ineffably sad, “Love Song” creates bittersweet mystery from a string of simple words, set to a sing-along rhythm. The melody is plain and sturdy, with an elegant balance of upward and downward motion, while the song is structured around verses that end, Dylanishly, with a repeating lyrical conceit that serves as a truncated chorus. The recurring line—“I want to write you a love song/With my life”—is itself achingly elusive, both a profound intention and an implicit confession (of what, is not clear). Landes sings with a tenderness that seems equal parts reflection and regret; when she sings, strikingly, of “the technicolor of a loving soul dimmed to black and white” I find it impossible to know whether she is talking about her own or her ex-lover’s or (most likely) both.
I would be remiss if I did not, now, point out that Landes was married to fellow singer/songwriter Josh Ritter for a portentously short 18 months earlier this decade, and that Ritter was the first of the two to release the so-called “divorce album” (2013’s The Beast in its Tracks). Landes’s upcoming Bluebird, arriving next month on Western Vinyl, is hers. Disliking both gossip and speculation, I leave it at that.
Landes was born in Kentucky, moved to New York City to attend NYU in 1999, dropped out after two years, and, as a self-professed studio geek, finagled her way into recording studio jobs while also working on her own music. Based in Brooklyn, she owns a studio there with two partners which has been up and running since 2008. Bluebird was co-produced by Landes and Thomas Bartlett (Doveman); among the album’s performers are Bartlett, Rob Moose, and Norah Jones. Landes was previously featured on Fingertips in February ’08 for the beguiling “Bodyguard.” Bluebird is her fifth full-length album; she also has released two EPs, including 2012’s charming but largely disregarded Mal Habillée, a French-language tribute to the yé-yé music of the early ’60s.