Album Review: 'Supernova'

Ray LaMontagne's last album earned him a Grammy, but his follow-up, Supernova, turns away from his usual folk and toward '60s-tinged rock. Reviewer Meredith Ochs found the change a pleasant surprise.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Ray LaMontagne's fifth album is out this week. The 40-year-old is known for putting his own spin on music from a different era. His last release in 2010 earned a Grammy for best contemporary folk album. But this time, LaMontagne has stepped away from the rootsy folk sound that his fans have come to expect.

Reviewer Meredith Ochs says his new album, "Supernova," is a pleasant surprise.

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: Ray LaMontagne is best known for his distinctly singed soulful vocals, but on his new album, he all but masks the most recognizable thing about himself, the psychedelic swath reminiscent of early Pink Floyd.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAY LAMONTAGNE: (Singing) Sweet life, under the (unintelligible) skies, under the (unintelligible) skies.

OCHS: A couple of songs in, this starts to sound a little more like a Ray LaMontagne album. His singing finally cracks the heady swirl of fuzz-toned guitars like a ray of sun breaking through billowing clouds.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LAMONTAGNE: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

OCHS: An intensely private and introspective artist, Ray LaMontagne stepped outside himself on his new album. Teaming up with producer Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys was a good move. Utilizing the resources at his own recording studio, Auerbach helped LaMontagne expand his sonic palette while staying true to his earthy sound. This song mimics the reverb-drenched recoil of a Joplin-jostled tube band(ph) and ushers you into audio fun house that can only have been built by a clever studio engineer.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LAMONTAGNE: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

OCHS: Ray's previous recordings use resonant acoustic guitar and string sections to create atmosphere behind his singing. Ray LaMontagne drapes his vocals in the new tones and textures he's employed on this album. The result is impressionistic and melodic, alternately dreamy and playful. Some artists make the same record over and over. Ray LaMontagne took a different approach and it's explosively creative.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LAMONTAGNE: (Singing) So you and me, we been hanging out now ever since we were kids just kicking around this town.

SIEGEL: The new album from Ray LaMontagne is "Supernova." Reviewer Meredith Ochs is a talk show host and DJ at Sirius XM radio.

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