Cotton Jones is one of those enigmatic bands for me, I know almost nothing about them beyond the sound of their music. I am sure I could look up a bit, but I feel content to just leave it that way. So what do I know? I know they began life as Cotton Jones Basket Ride and released a few EPs, only one of which I’ve heard. Then they dropped “Basket Ride” from their name, and put out Paranoid Cocoon last year. Some web press I have seen, for reasons I can’t figure, considers Paranoid Cocoon their debut album; I do not know what this indicates about the Basket Ride-era music that proceeded it. I think the band may just consist of a man and his wife, and I don’t think either are actually named Cotton Jones.
Paranoid Coccoon, however, was easily one of my favorite records of last year. I happened upon one of the songs, “I Am A Changer” on SaidTheGramophone and was immediately taken by it. The song is playful yet melancholy, poetic yet funny, wistful yet weighty. Happily, I discovered that the entire album also met those same descriptions.
Their new record, Tall Hours In The Glowstream was just released, and Cotton Jones has seemingly tweaked their sound a bit. There were many times on Glowstream when I thought, oh reminds me of this or that. While nothing wrong with that, what I liked about having discovered Cocoon last year was that I regularly thought, oh I really like Cotton Jones. Perhaps this is a normal reaction to a second record, and explains the famous sophomore-record let-down.
Anyway, on Glowstream, the singers actually sing some vocals alone, instead of just harmonizing together on just about everything (which was totally charming on Cocoon). The light pop/garage band/tamborine undertones of Cocoon has been replaced by a slightly darker production led by organ drones, echoed drums, and even a horn section here and there. The playfulness is not nearly so evident. Also not as evident are the lyrics, the album just feels a lot more mysterious in many ways.
Mystery is good, even welcomed, but personally much of what I was drawn to on Cocoon has been pushed into the shadows this time around. (I think some of it is there, it’s just not so obvious. I think it likely I may grow to find it on this album, with more time and listens.) While I am glad they did not try to exactly duplicate what they were successful with prior, and absolutely look forward to where they go next, Tall Hours In The Glowstream feels to me to have lost some of what made Cotton Jones unique.
Here’s a sample mp3 from the album: “Sail Of The Silver Morning”
and while I’m at it, here’s their earlier “Up A Tree (Went This Heart I Have)” from Paranoid Cocoon.