Six years after the release of her debut solo album, Heather Woods Broderick returns with Glider, another installment in her explorations of ambient, indie and folk music. This time around, however, with a greater emphasis on dreamy atmospherics, she has turned an album into an experience not to be missed. Broderick starts off with “Up in the Pine,” a finger-picked, acoustic guitar-driven tune stuffed with vivid imagery of the album’s thematic tether—the loss that accompanies growth. Reverb augments the guitars, the string arrangements and even the vocals, transforming the music that recalls her first album into a dreamlike froth. Old fans and new listeners will be roped in by this trance of an introduction.

“Mama Shelter” brings along a darker, moodier vibe. It shifts gears from the album’s opening track, but doesn’t shift focus. The song is clearly a musical departure, but despite the reggae-infused choruses and the electronic noise just underneath the mix, it works. Broderick’s airy but powerful vocals come to the forefront here to prove the album’s weaving stylistics play second to her voice. “Wyoming” ramps up the atmospherics while brightening the thus far somber experience. It’s a more hopeful-sounding song that builds into a noisy bout of distorted guitar fuzz. This break from the gloom is a fitting midway point before Broderick returns to the overcast textures present earlier on.

“A Call for Distance” may not be the best track on Glider, but it could very well be the most interesting. Retaining the ethereal essence of the rest of the album, this tune is strictly jazz. Velvety and smoky, it cuts to the core of the album’s themes. Lyrical centerpieces such as, “To choose/ A path/ And hurt/ The ones we know” and “You choose/ To learn/ To loathe/ The ones you love” reinforce the concept that growth and change are as personal as they are artistic. The changes made to Broderick’s sound on this record reflect that theme quite nicely.

Spending too much time discussing the title track, “Glider,” may take away from how beautiful this song actually is. While the rest of the tunes are tremendous chapters to a short but powerful album, “Glider” is the true takeaway. It’s the song. The one that gets trapped in your skull. The one that plays over and over just before you drift off to sleep. “All for a Love” ends Glider where it began. Folky and resonant, set to a shuffle beat and lathered with a layer of jazz from a plunger-muted trumpet—a great endcap that puts a dot at the topside of the record’s emotional wavelength.

Glider’s primary strength is that it’s a near perfect example of the forethought put into an album’s composition. This isn’t a collection of tunes written over a half decade and recorded for recording’s sake. Glider ebbs and flows, it’s thematically driven and it has all the hope, pathos and spirit of a great story without actually being a story itself. That strength is also its flaw, however. Aside from “Glider,” most songs don’t demand to be listened to as individual pieces. You’ll put this record on to listen to it straight through. You’ll turn on “Glider” to show friends just how talented Heather Woods Broderick is. Glider is an album’s album. It’s an experience. But any one song separated from the larger whole can be overlooked or ignored altogether. That’s a shame, because this is an inspired piece of work that is as enjoyable as it is heartbreaking.

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