Mojo (Publisher) - "'Hey No Pressure' raises the record's pulse to dangerous levels, but the drowsing, starry-eyed mood is best served by the instructions issued on 'In My Own Way'..."
Paste (magazine) - "'Hey, No Pressure' resurrects Auerbach's love of fuzz-toned blues rock, via a hot psychedelic freakout."
Personnel: Ray LaMontagne (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Seth Kaufman (slide guitar, bass guitar); Jim James (saxophone, siren); Dan Dorff (keyboards, vibraphone); Kevin Ratterman (Moog synthesizer); David Givan (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Kevin Ratterman.
Recording information: LaLaLand Studio, Louisville, KY.
Photographer: Brian Stowell.
Arranger: Ray LaMontagne.
After three albums with producer Ethan Johns and a self-produced effort, each offering a shift in sound, Ray LaMontagne brought in the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach for his sonically richer, more psychedelic-leaning fifth LP, Supernova. For his sixth full-length, Ouroboros, the singer/songwriter selected My Morning Jacket's Jim James to co-produce, and moves deeper into the psychedelic haze. LaMontagne shuts down vocal comparisons to Van Morrison here, almost completely abandoning his soulful growl with the exception of parts of "While It Still Beats," a mass of churning guitars that escalates into a choral affair at times recalling the Beatles' "The End." Instead, on the vast majority of the album, he vocalizes with a gentle tone just above a sigh. Musically, Ouroboros dives into the British psychedelia of Cream and Pink Floyd and never resurfaces. "Hey, No Pressure," features a big, fuzzy blues-guitar riff, vintage keyboards and synths, and old-school solo jams, all under LaMontagne's insistent whisper. In contrast but still of the era, tracks like "In My Own Way" and the opener, "Homecoming," take on a mellow, trippy atmosphere with an impressionistic wash of vintage keys, vibraphone, acoustic guitar, and a light rhythm section among their design. "Homecoming" is an eight-and-a-half-minute scene-setter in which the singer gently susurrates descriptive imagery involving a hillside, feathers, a sunset, and "the birdsong, tugging on my slumber." Elsewhere, "A Murmuration of Starlings" is an instrumental carried by a soulful guitar solo that's delivered with the surrounding tracks' hushed contemplation. The instrumental is one of just eight tracks on the album, but tallying is pointless since two pairs of songs play continuously as one, and the cover art organizes the record into two parts. Replete with consummate musicianship, Ouroboros is a deliberate work of album rock, something the songwriter concedes in a punchline-like lyric near the end of the closer: "Never gonna hear this song on the radio." ~ Marcy Donelson