If you’ve had the privilege of seeing Courtney perform live, you know that she has a voice built for Barclays (the arena, that is). Her latest album Between Blood and Ocean premiered today, and it’s her most authentically bold solo project to date, featuring an impressive blend of chilling euphoria and unrestrained heart.
Throughout the album, Courtney swims through a stunning vocal range, which has proven characteristic to her distinguished style, and perhaps what contributes most to its memorability this time around is the subtlety in which her voice echoes the energy of the accompanying instruments track by track. When her voice descends into darkness, the other sounds follow, and when her voice becomes ethereal, the others appear more delicate. The thoughtful sequencing that went into this project, which results in an emotional story from start to finish, is definitely something worth appreciating.
With that said, it seemed important to include a track by track review of Between Blood and Ocean to narrate my personal experience with the album.
- “Uranium City” sets a dreamlike environment, gently allowing you to let go and sink into the album.
- “Sweet Snow” remains dreamlike but brings us someplace darker. The repetitive sounds draw you further into the dreamscape as the song escalates and then quiets and then escalates again. Feelings of confusion linger amidst a continuous haziness.
- Pulling from the darkness in “Sweet Snow,” Courtney hits us with “I’d Kill,” which introduces deeper, full-bodied vocals. When listening to “I’d Kill,” I can’t help but be reminded of Fiona Apple’s vocal cadences.
- “Don’t Look at Me” is by far the track most similar to “I’d Kill” but with a rawness and adrenaline that feels completely unrestrained. This track definitely warrants some affirmative head nods. I could see this taking off as an anthem of reclaiming self-power.
- Ah, “Snowflakes.” “Snowflakes” gifts us with a calming refuge to the aforementioned burst of energy. It is beautifully reflective and surrendering.
- “Silver Needle of Pine” picks us up again with euphoric chanting and escalating guitar riffs.
- And then there’s “Hekla.” Ballad meets lullaby in this entrancing song that reminds me of a calming rainfall on a dark night, finishing with a flash of lightning.
- “Black Sheep” brings back Courtney’s powerhouse vocals as she sings with conviction, filling us with a sense of defiant satisfaction.
- “White Trees” appears to be the most experimental track on the album, featuring electronically altered vocals, MIDI sounds, and explosive bass drums. This song starts off a bit startling, but you’ll find yourself getting lost in its energy and nodding your head along with it.
- “Good Things Come” provides a short interlude to slow it all down and prepare us for the end.
- “Sand Angels” is calming. You’ve gone through a lot, and it’s time to reflect and melt away into nothing.
On an industry level, the album feels like a culmination of years of preparation for a truly impressive, cohesive piece of work as Courtney comes into her own. In another sense, it feels like an honest conversation with ourselves – one that feels familiar, yet indescribable. Between Blood and Ocean cradles us into an emotional journey that shows us the dark and the light and then softly returns us to the ground.
My top picks off the album are “Sweet Snow,” “Don’t Look at Me,” “Snowflakes,” and “Sand Angels.”