Over the years, Heather Woods Broderick has amassed a fairly stacked resume as a backing musician, having played with acts like Sharon Van Etten, Efterklang, Laura Gibson and more. Her catalogue as a solo artist, on the other hand, is comparatively sparse: Glider is her sophomore album, coming almost six years after 2009’s From the Ground.
These nine songs are, first and foremost, exceptionally pretty. Most of the tracks are structured around soft piano chords or gossamer electric guitar plucking, which are fleshed out with subtly textured orchestrations and hymnal vocal layers. Seemingly every sonic element is shrouded beneath a blanket of reverb, which means that Broderick’s gentle incantations are celestial rather than folksy. (If anyone was disappointed about Grouper’s organic turn on 2014’s Ruins, this ought to fill the void.)
Glider is the kind of album that seems to have been tailor-made for headphone listening in the dead of night. On this level, it works nicely: from the billowing clouds of guitar echo in opener “Up in the Pine” to the starry-eyed synth twinkles of “A Call for Distance” to the sexy sax leads of closing cut “All for a Love,” this is the kind of music that can wash over a listener without drawing too much attention to itself. The percussion is infrequent, with rhythms that drift rather than groove.
None of this is necessarily a problem, but it does give Glider an ephemeral quality that doesn’t make much of a lasting impression. Even after repeat listeners, it’s hard to pick out one song from another, and the standout moments are few and far between.
There’s just one notable exception: “Wyoming,” which begins as a characteristically spectral ballad but builds to towering crescendos of pounding drums and smouldering fuzz. In the final passage, Broderick’s quiet coo rises to something more urgently emphatic.
It’s the kind of sit-up-and-take-notice moment that’s otherwise missing from Glider. With more elements like this, the album could have been a triumph; as it is, it’s reestablishes Broderick as a solo artist worth keeping an eye on.
Review by Alex Hudson