The Summer of Love is alive and well on Israel Nash’s “Lifted,” the Texas-based folk rocker’s fifth album in his nearly decadelong career. Full of feel-good, sonically textured Americana jams about peace and love, Nash’s latest batch of songs make for a satisfying, if somewhat one-note, late addition to your summer vibes playlist.
A longtime disciple of late-’60s folk, Nash is definitely the kind of artist who wears his influences on his sleeve. When you hear his emotional-but-controlled warble on the somber “SpiritFalls,” for instance, it’s easy to understand why he often draws comparisons to Neil Young. But perhaps the biggest influence throughout “Lifted” is the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, especially when it comes to the epic arrangements and symphonic production. From the expansive strings and horns on “Looking Glass” to the reverberated cascades of lap steel and acoustics on “Hillsides,” each track is its own unique sonic landscape, masterfully crafted by Nash and co-producer Ted Young. “Sweet Springs” shows equal love for both the Beach Boys and the Beatles, complete with a bouncy groove, upbeat chorus, and plenty of “Oohs” and “La Las” to sing along to. None of this is necessarily reinventing the wheel, but it’s a classic sound for a reason, and Nash does it particularly well.
It’s hard to truly put the scope of the record’s aural ambition into words, but from the very moment the music swells to life on the opener, “Rolling On,” it feels like this album was made to listen to atop a mountain. The album’s grandeur is easily its greatest strength, but as all 10 tracks (excluding the intro tracks to “Rolling On” and “Sweet Springs”) are essentially “Hey Jude”-level anthems, it can get a little exhausting to digest in one sitting. Nash can definitely hold our attention with just a guitar in hand, so it would have been nice to have had a more stripped-back song or two in the mix, both for variety’s sake and to give the listener a breather between epics. Still, there’s plenty to like about Nash’s hippie sermons, and there’s not a single song on “Lifted” that won’t send you off in a sunny mood.
Robert Steiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.