On Stories Up High, Nashville-based musician Laney Jones doesn’t stray too far off the path she started on with her 2013 debut and the self-titled follow-up three years later. Her latest LP is brimming with lush, introspective songs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist next to Bon Iver or Sufjan Stevens. But it’s the second half of the album, where Jones breaks away from the slow tempo, ethereal songs where she really starts to shine.
The mesmerizing opening title track shows off her prowess for writing succent, but memorable lyrics. The next several songs offer a stark, melancholy vibe that somehow still manages to offer glimpses of hope hidden in the lines. In press materials, Jones explains her writing process, saying, “When I write, it’s like I step inside of a dream. I go to this place that’s somewhere between sleeping and waking, between memory and imagination. It’s a place where anything can happen.” Fittingly, there is a strong dreamlike feel to a lot of the music on this record.
But it’s the second half of the album where Jones offers some of her best songs yet. “Secret Weapon” is a slow building track that’s destined to be a show staple for the rest of her career. It’s also the song that best highlights her impressive range as a singer, offering a stark deviation to her more subdued vocals on the earlier tracks. The very next song, “Not Alone,” is another brilliant, raucous track with undeniably infectious hooks and a singalong chorus buttressed by fuzzed out guitars and a driving beat. And the chorus makes it a collective anthem for just about anyone: “All of my family/All of my history/ All of the friends I’ve known/All of the pets I’ve owned/All of the books I’ve read/ Music that fills my head/I carry them with me, wherever I go/I’m not alone.”
Those tracks alone prove just how great Jones is as an indie rock singer. There may be more than a few Sad Bastard songs on the record to pacify the earnest, but Jones’ ability to mix it up with different genres and stretch her appeal makes for a more deeply satisfying listen.