All his previous albums and EP's have put Talons' on orbit, and now from a geostationary position he delivers his first fully masterpiece and totally achieved full length. Not that his records were not collections of gems and jewels, but now, here, the sound production and the science of refinement have brought him to a new level where he freely discuses with pairs in my record collection like The Red House Painters, Owen or Spokane.
Like fine wine, "Songs for Boats" is long in the mouth, there is no overproduction but the sound quality is perfect and offers unexpected depth and clarity. Gone are the lo-fi limits but kept is the sense of economy and minimalism. The use of second vocals by his wife Sommer, adds to Mike Tolans's voice beautiful harmonic layers and vivifying reflections on water. There is a vast arrays of instruments included with parcimony : acoustic guitars, autoharps, chord organs, clarinets, violin, lapsteel, et. Members of Trouble Books, Dinomania and Forrest/Dorosoto are also contributing to the richness.
The opening track, "Rowboat" makes me shiver, echoes some of the best songs of The Red House Painters or Carissa's Wierd, but explores a more intimate, subdued vein. At some points you can imagine very easily a rise of bass and drums carrying away melancholic and emotional guitars but Mike Talon solves this with a trembling whisper. This is the best song of the album with just 2:48. I'm sure longer versions of this song must exist, at least in live or in his mind. You could easily imagine a 7 minutes extension.
Second track, "Old Kayak" starts like a simple lullaby but the second part turns into a flaky plastry with superb and subtle arrangements. It goes on like that with "Catamaran", each track is surprising with its refinement, and it compensates the lack of experimentation around field recordings on this last record. Talon's finally embraces a more classical slowcore songwriting but never forget to surprise himself with fresh and intricate textures.
Fortunately he kept the diary-like structure of his previous release, and "Ferry" or "Lifeboat" capture such precious life instants. Sometimes emotions are almost too strong, like with the sensitive melancholic and slow pop song "Skiboat" followed by a more atmospheric reverie, "My Life is a Rotten Chris-Craft".
He is clearly following a new direction with this album and many tracks, like "Lost Ships" or "Royal Caribbean" remind me of the bittersweet finesse of Spokane, while others, "Sailboat" is an example, may follow ways more akin to the softest path once followed by Wil Oldham during his Palace years. .
The last track, "The Cleveland Rocks" is a new version of a track on "Okracoke" and it's a beautiful sensitive instrumental which i would relate to other instrumentals like the untitled hidden track on the "Shock me" EP of The Red House Painters or to "Accidentally" on Owen's self-titled debut album.