July Flame is the kind of album that, once finished, will make you not want to breathe for fear of giving your musical experience a definite ending. In this fashion, few albums have endangered my life as beautifully as this one.
July Flame is the crowning achievement of Laura Veirs's career, and a near guarantee to be placed in my top five greatest albums of the year. Its songs are all steeped in whispery reverb and few are without an acoustic guitar. But make no mistake; July Flame is far from predictable. In fact, most of what makes the album so beautiful is the way Laura manipulates her craft in ways both reassuring and unsettling, but universally sublime. When Laura interrupts herself out of tempo to deliver the chorus of "Little Deschutes", it is undoubtedly awkward, but its repetition gives the song a memorable identity, one that will still be troublesome to get used to in even fifth or sixth listens. The tempo change in the middle of "Summer is Champion" was the moment that convinced me that July Flame was a classic.
Conversely, July Flame is not just music theory gymnastics. In fact, the greatest moments on the album are when Laura writes straightforward pop songs like the saccharine positivity-bender "Life Is Good" or the title track, where ominous percussion propels Veirs's verses of adoration for the titular month to a climax of voices all asking "Can I call you mine?".
July Flame has proven to be a stellar album for smoldering summer nights despite its January release, but the album's seasonal versatility should not come as a surprise to anyone. The songs of July Flame are perfect for nearly every mood, whether climatic or emotional. They can be soothing in fury or comforting in calm. The themes of July Flame are so universal yet so resonant, I have no problem imagining its songs being relevant to music listeners for generations to come. As long as mankind exists, there will always be self-doubt, there will always be yearning, and, always at some point, life will just feel good. Every mindset is a more than perfect excuse to listen to July Flame. Just make sure to remember to breathe when you're done with it.