Four hours south of Portland, Oregon, the Rogue River flows right through the center of a small municipality called Shady Cove. This is where songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Sarah Rose and Sarah Nienaber, formerly of Candace, recorded the track that would become the name of their new project and self-titled debut, Shady Cove; this is where, in an unassuming cabin, the two seasoned collaborators began exploring desire’s revolutionary potential and the nomadic impulses borne of creative restlessness and the claustrophobia of city life.
“We were not writing these songs with the idea of a band in mind,” says Sarah Rose, describing how the album came together. “It felt like these songs wanted to belong to something new, rather than the continuation of a previous project.” Across Shady Cove’s eleven tracks, Nienaber and Rose are hitting upon vibrations more intimate but no less immediate than those explored with their prior band, nudging guitar-driven dream pop into softer and more diffuse territories. To further emphasize her point, Rose concludes, “moving forward artistically feels like the only option.”
“Summer Days,” the album’s first single, dabbles in muted, homespun psychedelia, putting a contemporary twist on the type of lysergic pastoralism popularized by XTC on Skylarking. Shady Cove’s use of synthesizers suggest orchestral grandeur supported by melodies that are subtle but not subdued. Lyrically, in “Summer Days” and on the record extensively, the band refuses to shy away from paradox, oscillating between nostalgia’s idyllic detours into the past and the anticipation of something less familiar, perhaps, or somewhere more intuitively known: “Going back to summer days,” and “waiting for summer days” to return. The song that follows, “High Divide,” further accentuates this tension: Rose sings about the impact that one’s dreams in childhood has on one’s dreams as an adult.
Nienaber and Rose write their songs together. While snapshots of narrative flicker across the surface of the album’s penultimate track, “Winter Garden,” the lyrics rely on imagist fragments to communicate the song’s titular metaphor—hard-won rewards borne of nurturing desire in the face of adverse conditions. Shady Cove is an album flush with similar moments, defiantly optimistic that one day we’ll end up somewhere we can see past the shore. It’s these shiny paradoxes that are what make the band, and this debut, so compelling.
“We’re always searching for the right place, the good place, the landing place, the final resting place,” Nienaber reflects, implying that the only thing that will satisfy desire is more desire. “In these songs, I think there is a self-conscious acknowledgement that I, or you, or we, will never get there… Shady Cove is a celebration of that unshakeable longing, the forever search.”