Portland, Oregon’s Liz Harris is adept at establishing small, simple motifs, and then expanding them to fill the rooms where she records and the rooms where we listen in. The tape hiss puts us at ease; those narcotic guitars and pianos offer the warmth of a surprisingly strong candle flame. But it’s Harris’ lovely, undertow vocal—at once shadow, moth, and wick—that proves impossible to disavow or pull away from.
Throughout Paradise Valley, the overwhelming totality of loneliness is, again, her implicit theme, if not her explicit one. Sluggish and slurred, “Headache” bows to its title, locating something grand and beautiful in the individualized helplessness of self-distraction, waiting for the Excedrin to finally kick in.
Lighter and breathier, “I’m Clean Now” succumbs more readily to the static that crowds much of Harris’ work. The song feels pointedly circular, from the notes chosen and arranged, to a gradual loss of acceleration that puts the lie to any claim the name makes to any newfound sobriety. An uptick never arrives; the pillow becomes so soft you tumble through it, without ever noticing.