It’s kind of amazing how much history Cate Le Bon packs into her music. The Welsh indie-rock artist’s great 2016 album Crab Day evoked the incisively loopy post-punk of Pere Ubu and the Red Krayola, the clattering epiphanies of the Raincoats and Lilliput, the Velvet Underground and Seventies Kraut-rock, as well as the homespun progginess of contemporaries like Stephen Malkmus and Eleanor Friedberger. Yet, Le Bon’s songs always feel utterly her own, cryptic and compact, errant yet conversational (even when she’s singing in Welsh), taking you to odd places you’re always happy to arrive at.
Her latest single, “Daylight Matters,” from her forthcoming album Reward, shows her moving in a bravely straightforward, strikingly pop direction. Le Bon meditates on a personal, permanent loss over an elegantly forlorn track that straightens out the odd angles of her sound into something the suggests what it might sound like if John Cale or Anglo-German art-rockers Slapp Happy took a shot at writing for the sad-ballad side of soft-rock radio in 1977. Though it’s filled with burden and regret, there’s also a sense of mind-clearing and moving on, too, like she’s taking one last backward glimpse from a train slowly rolling out of a familiar city. That mood perfectly fits the openheartedly searching new turn in her music.