SARAH BETHE NELSON
"The point of the record is in the ways Ms. Nelson makes the songs gradually move from one definition to another, drawing your attention to its repetition or simplicity, then expanding the context or otherwise defying your expectations." - NY Times
"If the craftsmanship and artistry behind the music aren’t enough, the fire in Nelson’s heart that she is able to work into her lyrics will surely draw listeners in." - mxdwn
Sarah Bethe Nelson is the constant observer. Having spent the better part of her adult life tending bar at San Francisco’s most well-loved watering holes, she has witnessed thousands of
late nights fights, early morning rants, blackouts, make-outs, and make-ups. Yet she seems to have an eye cast askance at the streetlights outside. For it’s not the drama unfolding inside the
bar that keeps her rapt; it’s the possibility that one night a light will appear outside, a glowing orb with all the answers that she can levitate into, that will rescue her from love-worn ennui, from the violence of misspent youth. What stands out about the songs on her Burger Records debut Fast-Moving Clouds is this sense of waiting, waiting, hoping.
Ms. Nelson doesn’t exude the brassy confidence of a chanteuse; nor does she wear the mask of false naivete favored by some of her “indy” musical contemporaries. Rather, Nelson and her plaintive, unforced voice seem to hang in the balance, and the source of her songs seems a mix of genuine heartbreak and stark resolve. Her music is reflected in that not-extreme dichotomy; in it there is warmth and beauty, as well as a genuine mean streak, softened barely by her well-crafted melodies.
As a long-time member of San Francisco’s close-knit rock and roll community, Nelson has obviously inherited her peers’ sense of pensive melody. Most striking, though, is the seeming simplicity of the songs; the two-word chorus of ”Impossible Love”, repeated over and over, not to bore the listener, but to key us in to her sense of educated hopelessness, a “been-there, done-that” kind of boredom, followed by a gorgeous, unexpected chord-change turnaround, which paints a wholly different picture of elevation and release. The songs are simple, but they throw these great surprises at us. Recorded at the home studio of song wizard Kelley Stoltz there is a sense of sonic adventure creeping throughout the record. With a crack engineer and a who’s who of great musicians giving life to Ms. Nelson’s weary yet inspired observations Fast-Moving Clouds is a beautiful, mysterious journey to heartbreak and back.
P R E S S
Review of Oh Evolution in The Revue
MXDWN review of "Oh Evolution"
Sarah Bethe Nelson's interview in Glide Magazine
Interview with She Shreds Magazine
The Gritty Birds Podcast interview
Feature interview in Argus Leader
American Songwriter's Top 50 Songs of 2015
Pitchfork Review of "Fast-Moving Clouds"
New York Times Review of "Fast-Moving Clouds"
Stereogum premiere of "Fast-Moving Clouds" video
Stream whole album on Stereogum
Review in KQED