If there’s such a thing as love on first listen, then consider Lauren Balthrop the subject of that instant embrace. Airy, atmospheric and instantly beguiling, Balthrop’s hushed tones, languid vocals and nocturnal ambiance add up to a hypnotic combination, a construct flush with dreamy desire and pensive musings. The sublime sounds of “Down,” “Accident” and “Tumbleweed” offer an instant allure, one that lulls the listener through a sublime state of mind. Although some songs pick up the pace — the jovial “Come Around” and the quirky album closer “I’m Ready” being the most overt attempts — the haze and shimmer that permeate the album overall lend themselves to a solitary sound, one that’s sweetly surreal and consistently compelling.
Balthrop is clearly trying to create a connection, an attempt that finds added urgency in a world where frayed relationships and disruptive disengagement have led to increasingly alienated attitudes. Those sentiments factor into the entire approach, and the wistful reflection of a song like “Long Day” echoes a longing and lament for a time when real relationships were a long lasting possibility. “I have nothing to say,” Balthrop coos on the latter, and yet her attitude and aptitude that suggests she’s not going to quit trying regardless.
Remarkably, This Time Around is Balthrop’s first album, and yet it’s as knowing and nuanced as anything one might expect to hear from an artist with far greater tenure. The beguiling ballad “We Fell” is one of the surest examples of that fact, its sweet sentiments simulating the lure and lore of a siren’s call that had sailors willingly beaching their boats on the rocks in response to their beckoning draw. There are no swift comparisons here, but suffice it to say that if Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos managed to find common ground, Balthrop would be waiting with a welcome.