Although Israel Nash's sophomore album, "Rain Plan," incorporates psychedelia, grunge and country sounds, it can best be described as folk with a purpose. Don't expect trivial romance songs and recounts of heartbreak. Apart from "Through the Door," an empathetic but somewhat pedestrian plea for love, the rest of the album seeks less clichéd topics. For example, "Who in Time" is the anthem of a lost soul, bringing in a Buffalo Springfield flower child attitude that's lazily delivers a call to action.
Unfortunately, it's sometimes hard to pick out what's being said simply because Nash's vocals are a trailing off whisper at some of the pivotal moments of each song. His arrangements and instrumentation lead, perhaps as a statement that lyrics should take a backseat to the music itself. If that's the case, it's refreshing in a world of auto-tune and shout-singing a la Mariah Carey.
Even with some tough-to-hear lyrics, "Rain Plan" stands out as a tribute to, if not a volume of, America's greatest sounds. It's a throwback to 1960s folk-rock classics like America, Jim Croce and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - particularly Young, whose lazy vocals and meaningful lyrics echo in almost every track. But there's also a modern edge, drawing up comparisons to current artists like Bon Iver and Hozier, whose work connects with modern listeners as much as it incorporates decades of urgent but quiet folk-rock.
Nothing encapsulates this more than "Mansions," the penultimate track that acts as a warning shot. It's complex in its instrumentation but simple in its message: support isn't always faithful, and you should always make that "rain plan" for when things fall through. "You built your mansion on the rock just find it sinking in the sand," Nash sings.
Luckily, "Rain Plan" was not only built on a rock, but stands firm as a tribute to Americana and the genres that feed into its laid-back sound but urgent message.