AFTER THE RELEASE of her impressive debut album, 2009's From the Ground, Heather Woods Broderick stepped away from the spotlight, devoting her energies to performing with others. Over the last several years, the occasional Portlander has performed with notable groups like Sharon Van Etten, Efterklang, and Horse Feathers. In certain ways, those experiences define her musicality—if there's one thing that's clear about Broderick, she knows how to weave her portion of a musical tapestry to stand out but not stick out.
That musical sympathy and understanding comes through on Broderick's second solo album, Glider. Those not paying close attention could easily overlook its sonic subtleties. The album is like fresh-cut wood; its thick grains and divots have to be felt, and a keen ear will pick up delicate, serene textures. The layered instrumentation—largely performed by Broderick and her brother, composer/multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick—often feels more like it's being breathed than played in the traditional sense. And lyrically, the album touches on the expected sacrifices one makes constantly touring year after year; it's candid but never clear cut, which could be said of the album as a whole. There's something shrouded about Glider, its elements moving in and out of focus. The record's most stark, straightforward quality might be the cover, a photo of Broderick's grandmother.
"I had this landscape photo in mind some months leading up to the record, and I was pretty certain I was going to use that," Broderick says. "But my brother and I were mixing the record, and it just started to feel like that photo was too stagnant and heavy feeling, so we were trying to think of some other ideas for the cover photo. [My grandmother] is a really vibrant person and I think the photo really shows her hope and excitement, but I like the photo because the graininess and color definition sort of has this lingering darkness behind it as well, and I felt that fit the vibe of the record."
There was never an official local release show for Glider when it came out in July, so Broderick will be treating this week's show at Mississippi Studios as such, playing with a full band, including Peter. Beyond that, Broderick plans to spend the winter based mostly in Portland, something she hasn't done for the better part of a decade. Though she hasn't put collaborating on other projects behind her, she wants to put her own music in front for a bit.
"I have never put too much thought into one project versus another, or placed any different level of importance on one or the other," Broderick says. "But writing my own music and playing someone else's music is definitely a completely difference experience. I guess when I'm playing with other people, I never think, 'Well, if this were my project I would've done it this way.' But it does feel really nice to step away from other people's projects and realize that I make my own sound."