Album Review: Gregory Alan Isakov – Evening Machines

The long-awaited Evening Machines is genuine Gregory Alan Isakov — a hauntingly beautiful and pensive, yet consoling album. This release feels like an elevated extension of his past records, with ethereal elements and orchestration that allow his songs to soar even higher. Evening Machines is prose and poetry masterfully embedded in themes of nature, travel, and the intricacies of everyday life. Synced with a striking soundscape, this album fulfils the listener the way music should.

The record begins with Berth, which according to Isakov is a song about immigration — its beautifully simple chords enhanced by a sea of strings. San Luis follows, and with lyrics like “I’m a ghost of you, you’re a ghost of me”, this song is naturally more haunting but with a gorgeous melody nonetheless.

One thing you can always rely on with Isakov is a thoughtfulness and sincerity at the core of his music. The lyrically poetic Southern Star, accompanied by whimsical strings, along with Powder, a delicate tune harmonized with a lovely female voice, plus the love-soaked Bullet Holes, all reference nature quite a bit, as do most of his songs. By now we know that landscapes, and everything from the moon, stars, and wind, play an influential role in Isakov’s storytelling, identifying his craft and enabling him as an artist to carefully examine the truths within his experiences.

Caves has a light gospel quality to it, though the meaning behind the song encourages no speaking all. Isakov sings “let’s hear the stars do their talking…let’s put all these words away”, reassuring us that there is beauty, comfort, and growth to be felt in pursuit of silence. Too Far Ago is a heavenly poem of a song, while Where You Gonna Go is rather heartbreaking, with eerie voice echoes.

For Gregory Alan Isakov, words are ingrained into nature as much as nature is ingrained into his words, resulting in the most beautiful of songs. As one of the most convincing and dependable folk artists around these days, we can’t help but feel completely immersed in his music and inspired to have a more meaningful relationship with our planet, ourselves, and each other, through honest self-reflection and contemplation — preferably while on a gorgeous hike on terrain of your choice — because sometimes that’s exactly the kind of break you need to reset.

Julia Kwan