Ashley Shadow winks at darkness, but she won’t lead you towards it.
It’s easy to fall under the spell of Ashley’s haunting voice. The Vancouver, B.C. based songwriter forged her own identity as a songwriter with 2016’s eponymous self-titled debut. Her sophomore effort, Only the End, maintains the moody introspection that is ingrained in Pacific Northwest life, but now comes armed with a palpable hope complementing her signature melancholy. “I wanted to make a more upbeat album, something you could play with some friends over. Some of the songs I wrote were initially bummers, but when we went to record them, we lightened them up.”
Balancing a couple of jobs and navigating life and love in increasingly unstable times, the album was written over two years by Ashley at her apartment. Her confident vibrato above lightly, distorted guitars mirrors the album’s theme of resilience, if not triumph, over adversity. There is comfort in these warm songs that endorse the realism of contented acceptance, rather than the naïve search for non-existent utopias.
While the songs were conceived in solitude, Ashley invited some very capable collaborators into the studio. “Don’t Slow Me Down” reunites Ashley with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. The album also includes Colin Cowan’s (Elastic Stars) bass line, pedal steel by Paul Rigby (Neko Case), drums from Joshua Wells (Black Mountain, Lightning Dust) and Ryan Beattie (Himalayan Bear) on guitar.