Kassi Valazza, 'Watching Planes Go By'
I love songs about plane-spotting more than better-known hits about actually being in the air. Props to "Leaving on a Jet Plane" for elevating heartache and "Eight Miles High" for reaching peak altitude, but I'll always prefer a heart-worn tune and some lyrics about dreaming, wishing and never quite getting off the ground. A plane-spotting song can turn joyful, but more often it lingers in that all-too-human space of tenuous hope: not quite letting go of someone leaving, almost managing to take a next step yourself.
Portland, Ore.-based singer-songwriter Kassi Valazza captures a fluctuating melancholy perfectly on "Watching Planes Go By," a standout track from her enrapturing second album, out now on the West Coast's finest little label, Fluff & Gravy. Kassi Valazza Knows Nothing sees the Arizona-born artist trading in her twang, equivocally, for a hazy psychedelia highly evocative of late-1960s English folk music and its Laurel Canyon counterparts, especially early Joni Mitchell. "Watching Planes" invokes Mitchell's "Michael From Mountains" with a main character who's longing for vistas beyond his window. In the song, Valazza's Michael is, like Mitchell's, a free spirit — but he's been grounded by a broken foot, a mundane calamity that inspires a reverie about accepting limits and maintaining perspective. The magnificent swirl of sound and lyrical poeticism that Valazza and cosmic Americana band TK & the Holy Know-Nothings build around this glimpse of a guy looking skyward turns the song transcendent. To quote another heady kid who loves aerial metaphors, if flying on the ground is wrong, Valazza's gonna make it right.
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