Nashville-based indie folk band Night Beds’ debut album, Country Sleep, can be summed up in two words – quietly ambitious. The album resonates with vulnerability, like a diary of ups and downs, the private thoughts of vocalist and lyricist Winston Yellen. Yellen describes the album as whiskey-soaked, in the spirit of a vagabond, and rightfully so- the record wanders about the personal thoughts and experiences of a conflicted 20-something. It’s the kind of album that seems appropriate for a night under the stars in backwoods Tennessee or a long train ride of a weary traveler.
The album’s first track, “Faithful Heights”, is daringly transparent. Instead of kicking off the first go around with an energetic bang, Night Beds goes for something a little more raw, showcasing the soothing voice of Yellen with a naked ode to loneliness and companionship. Without the crutch of a guitar, Yellen is completely exposed. He continues in this vein with the hauntingly simple “Even If We Try”. “22″‘s use of cricket sounds makes the album’s goal evident – to be an earthy exploration of the human condition. The album ebbs and flows, rocking between tracks of great sorrow and ones with a more upbeat travelers hitting the road sort of feel. The album strikes a balance – it could border on weepy and overly sentimental but instead entertains the listener with its surprising variety. Tracks like “Borrowed Time” bring a much-needed lightness.
The record lacks an obvious commercial hit, with “Ramona” being the most radio-ready of the ten-track album. Taking notes from the Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes playbook, Country Sleep is raw and transparent with synth sounds, soft percussion and overall tender sentiment. While Yellen’s lyrics may be seen as pedestrian, there’s a universal quality to phrases such as ‘was I for you, I’m still for you?’, from ninth track on the album, “Was I For You?”. He may not be the poetic voice of our generation, but the simple, conversational quality works for Yellen’s freshman album. It’s accessible, thought-provoking, and relatable. Country Sleep could be the perfect springboard for a stellar sophomore album – it sets the stage for Yellen’s further development as a lyricist. If you’re a fan of Band of Horses and Robin Pecknold, Country Sleep is for you.