"Instead of ashes/ We are made of stars/ We're fireflies/ In the Mason jars," sings Chris Ezelle on "Birdcage," the slow-rolling second tune on his new LP, Monticello. The local singer-songwriter fuses Southern blues wandering with avant-folk experimentation, and the result is singular. Every windswept word Ezelle utters seems to come from some half-materialized, dreamlike place; it doesn't call to mind other music so much as a certain metaphysical-yet-humanist brand of cinema (Terrance Malick might spin Monticello on repeat).
Ezelle's music is at once ethereal and corporeal, existing in that space where heavenly bodies meet human ones. Sometimes, his love of repetition creates a static atmosphere; "A Storm Brewing" is a nice idea that doesn't quite pan out. "The Loveless Cafe," a weirdly beautiful tune, features the album's most stream-of-consciousness lyricism: Ezelle gruffly recounting times spent shooting television sets with Elvis ("'cause nothing's ever on") and such; his imagery here is vivid, visceral, alive.
Some of the best moments on the album are nearly imperceptible—the brief tape-reverse that opens "Black Cat Bones"; the unexpectedly bluesy walkdown that closes "As Far as the Gas Will Go." "It's always raining/ Every time that I go/ To Monticello," Ezelle observes on the title track. These small happenings form the base of a record that lives in and for the truths that most of us miss, the stuff that goes on all around us, even if we don't really notice. 4 out of 5.