It’s rare that a song strikes so perfect a balance between foreboding and sensual, but Thayer Sarrano gets it just right on “Shaky,” the title track from her new album. The tune is a study in contrasts, pitting hard edges against the soft allure of suggestion as Sarrano wraps her whispery drawl around a flat, forceful rhythm while vaporous tendrils of steel guitar float past.
“Shaky” is as evocative as anything you’ll hear this year, and while it’s certainly the centerpiece of the album that shares its name, Sarrano wrote some compelling songs to go with it. The Athens, Ga., musician has a flair for atmospherics, and she’s fond of gauzy musical textures and dream-like musical arrangements. Reverberating electric guitars drift and sputter at the start of “Thieves” as Sarrano murmurs in the background, before the song coalesces neatly into a stately waltz-time arrangement that accompanies her vocals. Echoing slivers of trebly electric guitar and a hypnotic tom-tom rhythm summon a parched desert feel on “Crease,” while the lurching “Touch My Face” finds her singing a woozy double-tracked call-and-response with herself.
Opener “How Can I Wait” is a devastating portrait of longing that wraps Sarrano’s vocals in a blanket of reverb and moody synths, and while the song is spellbinding, it’s also a fraught way to start an album that, for the most part, engages darkness in a less dire way. It’s not even that Sarrano is dark so much as that she seems to have an instinctive ability to spin everyday emotions into potent vignettes of an unsettled soul. It’s powerful, relatable and anything but shaky.