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Desert Life - Let It All Pass (self-released)

27 November 2023

If “Sphere” was my introduction to Desert Life, it was not only a great first step into their music but it did what all good singles do. It made me want to try out more of this duo’s excellent music. And I didn’t have to wait too long before Let It All Pass, a full-length album, landed on my desk. It was a good day indeed.

“Sphere” exhibits a peaceful and intimate folk sound, but it tells only a fraction of the story. For, while it may have expressed the understatement and space that defines Chris Swales and *Tom Jordon*s music, when it came to the variety of genres that they skirt, the sonic pastures that they navigate, and even beat new paths through, it could, as individual tracks are want to do, only speak for itself.

Tracks such as “I Don’t Wanna Know” reminded me of the likes of David Gray in their ability to bridge folk and pop, acoustica, and Americana and do it all via a deftly crafted song but still very accessible, and “Tangled Light” echoes Neil Finn at his most dreamlike.

But I didn’t come here to slap sound-alike labels on Desert Life’s songs; after all, you don’t need to resort to such reductionist approaches when there is so much going on in their music. “Garden of the Fallen” is strange and slightly windswept, “No Colours” is a brilliantly understated and sparse acoustic ballad, distant trumpets passing through to add intrigue, and the title track is full of nostalgia and melancholy, brooding cellos and the perfect poise and pace, and the sort of hushed tones that Damien Rice does so well.

Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to namedrop again, but Desert Life seems to remind me of so many of my favorite singer-songwriters that it is worth mentioning. You must admit that the names I reference place these guys in some rarefied company indeed.

It is an elegant and, indeed, eloquent album. And if “Sphere” showed that Desert Life could produce exquisite singles; Let It All Pass proves that they can maintain such standards across a whole album of music, and there are not many bands that are capable of such a feat.