American singer-songwriter Ramona Cordova has shared their latest album Naive, the first since 2017’s On Paper and only their fourth since 2005.
The album’s opening track, ‘Mouth of Autumn’, is a spoken-word piece recited over pastoral acoustic guitar lines and nature sounds, including crackling thunder. The naturalistic images run rampant throughout Naive, placing the album firmly in a specific time and place, one that you can always hold to whether the setting you find yourself in is perfect for the music or not. It works as transportation, ready to take you away from whatever your reality might be.
Cordova’s voice, elastic and in search of notes usually reserved for flutes and piccolos, trills its way through a never-ending parade of passionate search, not exactly for answers, but for understanding. ‘Men on the Mountain’ finds them twisting and turning through jazzy guitar lines and splashes of electronic noises attempting to find the proper comprehension for maltreatment. ‘Loving Him’, a waltz complete with such lush arrangement that it could musically slot perfectly into a Disney movie, lyrically interrogates themselves about continuing to love someone who is attempting to control them.
It’s not always dark and folky, however. ‘Woke’ features a funky guitar intro and a minimalist backing of shaking percussion, honing in on thoughts of survival and embracing the daylight. ‘The Bridge Works’, with its wonky keyboard sounds and circular chord progression, communicates a desire to bridge gaps. Whether those gaps are between cultures, people, or within one’s self is up to you.
I had a wonderful benefit for this album to make a good first impression on me: I listened to it early in the morning, while it was pouring rain outside, cosied up under a blanket with coffee and a newspaper trying to suss out the finer points of what Cordova was communicating. This is the ideal scenario for Naive: a warm, safe space among a tempest. That’s the way I chose to interpret Cordova’s music as a bright and comforting balm in the face of more tumultuous surroundings. “Sleep through the storm,” as they say in ‘Peace Through Violence’.
Cordova is inter-feminine trans-non-binary and describes their work as being influenced by “the ceaseless demonstrations they give day after day in society”. I certainly have no direct ability to relate to that, but that’s what’s great about Naive. Cordova is a welcoming presence, one who shares stories of love and care, destruction and rebuilding, doubt and self-assurance without judgment or confrontation. It’s a warm welcome into a world that you don’t need any experience to share stories or listen to wonderfully detailed experiences.
In just under 40 minutes, Cordova is able to paint a fully realised picture, establish themselves as an artist with a singular voice, prove their musical bona fides, and get out before overstaying their welcome. Naive is anything but. Cordova has the confidence and strong storytelling ability to communicate their experiences with grace and radiant emotion, the kind that you can find shelter in whenever the storm seems like it will rage forever.