After what some perceived to be an up-and-down previous year for post-rock releases, it certainly did not take long for 2017 to show out in grand style. After only three weeks, Heron emerged from the rural landscapes of northwestern Pennsylvania with their debut You Are Here Now, an invigorating masterwork that encompasses almost every element that drives the success of the genre in its modern form.
RELEASE DATE: 21 January 2017 LABEL: Self-released
Within its seven songs, the album triumphantly surveys calming tranquility, swelling hopefulness, darkness and light, sadness and joy, and an evocation of the natural world’s crushing beauty. It is an album that begs for Springtime; lush, vibrant compositions brimming with fresh warmth and life. Even the first chords of album opener “Shores” sound like the sonic equivalent of an awakening, a thawing of the soul after a long winter. Like those first few warm days every year, there is both reflection and reinvigoration taking place upon introduction to You Are Here Now.
In preparing to record the album, Heron made two wise decisions that pay off brilliantly. The first was to set up inside of Kane Memorial Chapel in Kane, PA, where they recorded the songs live as a full band, which lends a cohesiveness to their sound, an organic camaraderie between artistic partners that inhabits every corner of their compositions. The second, equally as deft choice was to hand their materials over to a duo of immensely talented, trusted songsmiths to polish and sharpen the results. Mixed by Matt Bayles (Caspian, Russian Circles, Minus the Bear) and mastered by Ed Brooks (Death Cab For Cutie, Pelican, Isis, These Arms Are Snakes), the finished product sounds as good as anything listeners will have heard in recent memory.
However, regardless of high-level production, You Are Here Now is successful in large part because of its nuances and intangible elements. From the pleasing drum flourishes and variations in songs like “Archives” and “Before the War” to the carefully stretched out, meditative melodic builds of “Shores” and the mid-album stunner “Drop,” Heron seems to possess the valuable instinct to do just the right thing at the right moment in order to build their songs most effectively. Beyond that, this is music that has the power to make the landscapes around you look more extraordinary, to create memories worth relishing. You don’t often find albums that offer so much, and such an opportunity should be treasured
Few recent albums have taken me over quite in the way that You Are Here Now has. One that comes immediately to mind is Of the Vine’s East-the-Water, which, coincidentally, feels equally as intrinsically tied to nature, taking a world around us that is just out of reach and fostering a direct, intimate relationship with it. The band notes that the album title is in reference to the exact point they are at right now in their musical development, but it will resonate with listeners as well. There’s an immediacy to these songs, and an abstract quality present that makes whatever you are doing at the moment feel more dramatic, more memorable. No amount of production can achieve that, as it simply comes from innate compositional skill. This concept extends beyond the scope of post-rock, as well; for instance, “Ender” sounds like it could be dropped into the middle of a soundtrack to an Italian crime thriller, yet it has a place on You Are Here Now that somehow makes sense. It reveals Heron as a band that is comfortable coloring outside of the lines and establishing their own unique template.
Most albums would be considered blessed to have one true standout track that keeps listeners returning for more. You Are Here Now has no less than four stellar songs, and no weak links. Above all, it is an album that feels exceedingly authentic, that overflows with passion – a true labor of love that reflects four musicians in lock step with one another over fifty-four consecutive minutes. Of all the promising new bands to emerge in the past several months, Heron may have the most exciting potential, possessing a rare kind of chemistry that can’t be manufactured. It is an inestimable quality which has placed You Are Here Now firmly into early discussion as an album of the year contender.