With his impeccably weathered tenor croon and mastery of Seventies singer-songwriterisms, Ray LaMontagne can often seem in danger of disappearing into his beard. So it’s a blessing that he connected with producer Dan Auerbach for his fifth album. Predictably, Auerbach helps the singer pull bright colors from the Sixties’ crayon box; less predictably, he makes it seem a perfectly logical progression of LaMontagne’s 10-plus years of cozy vibes.
On the title track, LaMontagne’s marble-mouthed phrasing comes wrapped in a dream of hand claps, organs, Mellotron and glockenspiel motifs. “Lavender” is a psychedelic pastorale with smeared multitrack vocals recalling both Pink Floyd‘s “Remember a Day” and the Zombies‘ “Time of the Season.” The pastiche isn’t as seamless or focused as Beck‘s great Morning Phase, but the spirit is similar. (What is it about our cultural moment that invites such post-flower-power wistfulness?) In the end, the money shot is “Drive-In Movies,” which welds LaMontagne’s woolly folk rock and Auerbach’s retro mixology into a wonder of pop-culture time travel. “I wanna be Brando in The Wild One,” he sings, like an old coot recalling his salad days over a whiskey and a fresh pack of smokes, more or less happy to be just who he is.