On Reward, avant-guitarist Cate Le Bon’s fifth full-length release, the clanging and improvisational collaborators of 2016’s Crab Day are nowhere to be found, leaving Le Bon in the basement on her own, mixing up sideways concoctions like a scientist chasing an epiphany.
Reward was written during a year alone in England’s Lake District, where she contrasted nights on the piano with mornings in the garage, applying beginner skills to carpentry.
Lyrically, Reward explores the pursuit of rootedness and foundation, examining its elusiveness through a lover and the agency to choose what comprises one’s space. It pairs well with the image of Le Bon over hammer and nail, building out the items of a home.
While recognizably Le Bon, with regal, Nico-like vocals on “Here It Comes Again” and wonky instrumental offshoots on “Mother’s Mother’s Magazines,” Reward is softer at the edges than the Le Bon of past albums Mug Museum and Crab Day. “The Light” and “Home To You” glimmer with the friendliness of commercial approval, while “Sad Nudes” and “You Don’t Love Me” lull the senses with the sweet cool-off of horns and piano.
Cozy and strange, let’s hope Le Bon settles into this nook for a little while longer.