Flashback to 2019: Singer/songwriter Kris Angelis is on tour. Not just any tour mind you. Instead, Angelis embarked on a journey that resulted in her performing in all 50 states. Then 2020 hit and touring was on pause. Angelis used this time to reflect. She embraced the clarity of silence, examined past experiences, and created. The result is her latest EP, The Skies We Look To, an album that has sections of joy and hope, yet is clearly shadowed by the pensive brooding many of us have recently felt.
Album opener “I’d Give Anything” uses its jaunty fiddle and foot stomping beat to put an optimistic spin on lyrics loaded with regret. While it’s not twangy, it has all the elements of a good folksy, country song. It’s a natural evolution from the artist’s heavy touring days to the confines of the studio, as the recording does an excellent job of simulating the energy of a live performance. Later, we get another country influenced track with “20 Miles To Empty.” The galloping rhythm creates a sonic metaphor, like tires on the creases of the road or a train roaring down the track, time and miles passing by. Angelis projects confidence in both her lyrics and vocal inflection that feels raw yet refined.
While all seven songs on The Skies We Look To feature smart storytelling, a trait coveted in Americana, it doesn’t get locked into a single musical style. Like the genre itself, Angelis explores a variety of influences to present her works. On “My Quiet,” Angelis shifts to a more pop-folk sound. With minimal acoustic guitar backing for most of the track, Angelis’s vocals are pulled to the front, almost floating above the track. However, the addition of piano and gentle drum rhythm accents the growing passion of the lyrics. “Flicker” has a unique sound that’s filled with ominous fiddle and a heavier drumbeat. The song gives the idea of embracing passion a different twist. The mysterious chords transform it into a tale of breaking through darkness, instead of the typical moonstruck-by-love fare that’s too commonplace. “That Wine Stain” combines a delicate melody with the most aching lyrics on the album as she sings about love—with a partner who suffers from addiction. The song seemingly ends abruptly before a chorus of strings plays out the rest of the album. You can’t help feeling like the painful relationship ended in tragedy.
With The Skies We Look To, Kris Angelis has assembled a group of songs that highlight her ability to not just write compelling lyrics, but also present it in a way that makes you feel the emotion behind the words. It’s an album that’s rooted in storytelling told through divergent folk influences making it a quality listen for any Americana music lover.