It's all about delivery, according to harpist and singer-songwriter Mikaela Davis. Her band's new album, aptly titled "Delivery," out on Rounder Records, is filled with all things dark and venerated. You get the sense through Davis's songwriting that whatever this record is, it's as much a gift to herself as it is a gift to listeners.
Themes of redemption and self-reflection permeate the album. Davis, who moved back to Rochester from Brooklyn, is tied to her roots. The songs dive in and out of genuine interpersonal moments and sentiments of detachment that come with being a working, traveling musician. The last few years have seen Davis and her band touring the US and Europe — the band opened for Bon Iver last year on a string of European dates — but this album is more about the examination of past lives, revisiting old places, and above all, humility.
The opening track, "Delivery," sounds like it could have been a John Lennon song, with its pristine grand piano intro, which bursts into heavy fuzz and drums. All that follows seems to draw on classic rock influences, like Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and Fleetwood Mac. On "Get Gone," it's hard not to imagine the recording taking place in the basement of Big Pink around all that 1970's gear. From a blues format gone haywire to a Stevie Nicks-esque ballad, "Delivery" is classic enough to evoke nostalgic feelings but with a production that takes you to new and uncharted sonic spaces.
Davis is adventurous in exploring new territories as a harp player, incorporating effects pedals and using her instrument as an experimental palette. Though songs like "In My Groove" and "Emily" are pure and true to the harp's natural sound, other songs give the instrument a brand new identity. It can make for an 80's glam pop song, like in "Do You Wanna Be Mine," or it can take on the 70's psychedelic nuance, like on "Little Bird" or "Other Lover." The band's arrangements are as dynamic as they are surprising. Waves of quiet in the beginning of "All I Do is Disappear" come crashing in as they roll into the chorus.
The album ends with "In My Groove," which features background vocals by The Staves. With themes of growing and exploring, it is especially poignant to have an English band that Davis befriended on the road while on tour play a part on "Delivery."