The heart of Kris Delmhorst’s Long Day in the Milky Way is, fittingly, in the middle of the record when, on “Skyscraper,” she softly sings: “You could be an open door. What are you waiting for?”
Across her eighth album, Delmhorst is inspiringly open and honest and is not shy about falling down and picking herself up again. She celebrates vulnerability — like you hear on “Skyscraper” — and repeatedly offers listeners gentle motivation: “Keep on pushing and you’ll find a way through” (“Wind’s Gonna Find a Way”); “Throw a little light out in the dark” (“Nothing ‘Bout Nothing”); “Don’t you worry, just keep singing that old song” (“Bless Your Little Heart”).
Sonically, many of these 12 songs live in dark hues of gray and blue. On a few occasions, Delmhorst leaves behind this palette and her folk soundscape brightens, like on the joyous “Hanging Garden,” but mostly, the album moves quietly within these tones like low rumbles of thunder. Put plainly, Long Day in the Milky Way is nice to listen to. The electric piano flickering on “Golden Crown” is like reaching out to touch the warm, sleepy face of your love lying next to you. The soft groove of “The Horses,” a cover of the 1989 track co-written by Walter Becker and Rickie Lee Jones, is like a cocoon, which feels more welcome than ever given how rare hugs are nowadays.
A continuous source of delight on Long Day in the Milky Way is the powerhouse vocal trio that surrounds Delmhorst consisting of Rose Polenzani, Rose Cousins, and Annie Lynch. If you listen closely to the playful “Bless Your Little Heart,” you will hear them hoot in response to Delmhorst referencing an owl. Elsewhere, they amplify Delmhorst and her encouraging words. Hearing them all together feels like when you share something incredibly intimate with a group of friends and everybody nods along. They understand. They’ve been there too.