Acquainted With Night, the second studio album by Lael Neale, is a collection of gentle indie folk that finds the LA-based singer-songwriter’s delicate sensibilities paired lovingly with a 4-track and Omnichord. The grainy photo that graces the album’s cover is appropriate, as the production on Acquainted With Night takes advantage of lo-fi tape hiss throughout that adds a charmingly homemade feel to the entire affair.
Opening with a lightly strummed acoustic guitar, “Blue Vein” introduces Acquainted With Night. Here, Neale’s vocals lean into a country-esque swagger befitting the song’s imagery of gap-toothed girls and fields of snow. Lael’s vocals don’t stray beyond her steady register until the song’s last minute when she repeats the words “I’m gonna fly.” It’s in the track’s final moments that her gorgeous voice at last takes flight and sounds at once remarkably deft while remaining light as a feather.
A simple, synthetic drum pattern pushes the album into pop territory on “Every Star Shivers in the Dark”. Although the track provides a welcome, steady groove, it’s five-plus-minute runtime feels unnecessarily long. Acquainted With Night’s title track follows and finds Neale’s Omnichord taking centerstage. The electronic harp lays wave upon wave of beautifully digitized chords over Lael’s exemplary poetry. “You were the night that had to depart, and I was the prodigal sun, returning to places I knew before, I knew the dark could come” Neale sings on the enchanting number.
Aside from Neale’s harmonizing with herself on the plaintive “White Wings”, there’s little diversity to be found during the record’s middle third until an upbeat rhythm is utilized on the fine “For No One For Now”. The song works as a well-sequenced jumping off point for Acquainted With Night’s second half. Neale’s vocals feel liberated as she takes full advantage of the track’s optimistic vibe, literally humming along in an almost lighthearted, seemingly carefree fashion.
The airy flute and minor chord organ changes of “Sliding Doors & Warm Summer Roses” take things in a psychedelic pop direction to kick off the album’s final act. The genre shift doesn’t last long, however. “Let Me Live by the Side of the Road” is Acquainted With Night’s second to last song. Here, Neale puts her spin on the gospel standard, utilizing vocal harmonizing to make herself sound as if a one-woman church choir to glorious effect.
Lael Neale’s sophomore full-length is concluded with “Some Sunny Day”, an optimistic closer that manages to bring things full circle by exiting in a similar style in which Neale entered, with a country-esque feel. All told, the songs that make up Acquainted With Night, although somewhat varied in terms of musical style, are consistent in that each one is imbued with Neale’s dreamily poetic tenderness. Regardless, if you don’t care at all for the sound of an Omnichord, Neale’s words and vocals may not be enough to keep you interested.