Last year, Mary Lattimore’s At The Dam marked a watershed moment for the classically trained harpist. While over the past decade she had recorded and performed with notable talents like Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, Steve Gunn, Jarvis Cocker, Meg Baird, and Thurston Moore, Mary’s acclaimed third solo full-length (her first long-player for Ghostly International) saw her own music deservedly embraced by a wider audience. It was certainly no small feat coming from a beguiling album of improvised, processed harp pieces that had been recorded during stops along a road trip across America – all funded by an esteemed fellowship that she received from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
Out April 14 on cassette and digital, Collected Pieces is a gorgeous counterpart to At The Dam, featuring six tracks previously available only as a download and/or streaming off Mary’s Bandcamp and SoundCloud pages. Recorded at her old home in Philadelphia between 2011 and 2016 and mixed by longtime collaborator Jeff Zeigler, Mary is reflective when describing this album-length compilation. “It’s me opening a box filled with 12 years worth of memories made while living there, with lots of beauty and sorrow, as well as total sunshine, blurriness, and some darkness all housed within.”
Throughout Collected Pieces, she conjures a mesmerizing range of colors and emotions from her 47-string Lyon & Healy harp along with subtle augmentations of effects and processed electronics. Dedicated to Mary’s favorite beach town, Ship Bottom, NJ, 10-and-a-half-minute opener “Wawa by the Ocean” gently unfolds like a daydream, with the song’s delicate refrain slowly dissolving into a light wash of delayed plucks and sun-kissed countermelodies. “We Just Found Out She Died,” however, takes a more celestial turn as her airy vocal harmonies shimmer underneath the meditative flutter of her harp. (The chimeric atmosphere is befitting of the song’s inspiration: Twin Peaks actress Margaret Lanterman, a/k/a the Log Lady, who sadly passed away shortly after Mary had seen her speak at a library in Philadelphia.) From the sweet yearn of “The Warm Shoulder” to the flickering drift of “Your Glossy Camry,” Mary’s music is all at once intimate and inviting as she effortlessly balances her exquisite sense of melodicism with an inventive ear for experimentation.
“It’s only in looking back that you realize how impermanent stuff always was, even though 12 years felt really long,” Mary explains. “The songs here have always been really special to me, and more so after bringing together these scraps and odes to memories of a burning motel, people from high school who are old now, or that Wawa convenience store on the Jersey shoreline which will probably always be there but is now so far away.”
A new transplant from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, Mary hasn’t had much time to settle into her new hometown. Following a recent tour with Waxahatchee and Kevin Morby, the coming months ahead will find her on the road again with Real Estate, playing synth in the New Rain Duets with Mac McCaughan, taking on a two-month residency at the Headlands in Sausalito, CA (May through July), and recording a duo record with Meg Baird for Three Lobed Recordings.