3 out of 5
Produced by: Thee Conductor (?)
Every song on Thee Conductor’s (Jason Butler) Cotton Tornado is a beautiful earworm. Well, maybe excepting throwaway :48 seconds ditty ASMR, but that’s a short whatever between two amazing tracks, so all is forgiven. Literally everything else, though, is delicate, gorgeous folk pop, bringing out the best and most focused sides of many contributors along the way, wrangling jangly and warm hooks into delicate gems that can be playful, or sad, or contemplative. It’s very much an album that you almost can’t get enough of, and merits replays in whatever waxxy or digital format you’re partaking.
…That ‘can’t get enough of’ is the catch, though: it’s not exactly that it’s such a good thing that you want to hear more, rather that every song is so short that it feels like some ultimate moment when the songs will “click” into an album – or even when a song will land as something beyond a fleeting, if catchy tune – is just a track away, but there’s simply not a song on here that necessarily feels complete. This is in addition to something that ensemble disc like this tend to struggle with: a lack of identity. There’s definitely an Austin indie-folk throughline to all of these songs – they are certainly of the same album, linked by Butler’s songwriting – but it’s a guest session: come in and sing a few bars while I strum or you drum, and so every track is essentially starting fresh. Since there’s then also this brevity issue, Cotton Tornado has the weird “gift” of being so damn good – Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Kevin Shea, Jana Horn, enhancing these already emotive tunes – while oddly being entirely ephemeral. Vague memories of melodies persist, and you really can put the thing on, again and again, but this seems like the kind of music you’d want to be immersed in, and it never gives you the chance.