In his autobiography, Miles Davis opined very specifically about what kind of music he likes, saying, “… I like raw shit, live, raunchy, get down, get back in the alley shit…”
On their fifth LP, Gold & Grey, Baroness were most likely not making a conscious effort to please the late jazz titan. However, were he alive to hear it, one would have to believe that he’d enthusiastically approve of the band’s efforts.
Through and through, Gold & Grey is a Baroness album. It is a considered artistic statement made by a unit interested in a seamless listening experience. It demands consumption as a whole, laughing in the face of shuffle play.
Is it a metal album?
Is it a psych-rock album?
Does it contain some uncommonly beautiful, quiet(ish) passages drowning in reverb, boasting some particularly lovely harmonized vocals to boot?
Yes, yes, it does.
Gold & Grey has 17 songs. Five (maybe six) of these are interludes. As with all Baroness albums, there’s a song or two that could be lost. It’s hard to say which of those songs has to go though, which speaks to the strength of the album’s overall cohesive nature.
By this listener’s count, the album has 5 career-best tracks, and everything else falls squarely into the, “pretty damn good”, category.
As the album is not broken into a Gold album, and Grey album, (as the band did previously, with with their third LP, Yellow and Green) we’re left to guess which songs speak to which colors. That said, the more anthemic, bombast-filled songs are better suited to triumphant Gold, and the quieter, almost spooky tracks speak to neutral Grey.
Sonically, these songs couldn’t be more different.
“Throw me an Anchor” is bow-legged swagger: an aural Long Island iced tea, full of raucous fuzz bass, anxiety, and multi-variable calculus masquerading as meth-cook back beats and Death Star-guitar leads.
“Emmet”, on the other hand, is meditation: a woodland panorama thick with fog somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, quietly anticipating sunrise, the titular, “Radiating Light.”
Each song is achingly beautiful in its own right. One speaks to pleading desperation, and one to thoughtful contemplation. Throughout the album, the band consistently executes both with tremendous aplomb.
As Baroness has mutated and matured over time, some might say they’ve lost their edge, or gotten too mellow. Lead vocalist and guitarist John Baizley shouts less these days, and the pretty parts poking through the band’s signature onslaught of riffage have much more real estate on this album.
Yet, these things are a sign of the band’s growth. They’re a sign of their dedication to remain true to the things that make them who they are, while pushing forward, seeking new frontiers.
A smorgasbord of textures, riffs, introspection, and innovation, Gold & Grey is another adventurous chapter in the story of Baroness.
It’s a grow-er, and a show-er.
One expects that in ending their “color cycle” with this outing, the band is primed to make perhaps their best album yet, next time around.
Here’s to that.