Circuit des Yeux Credit: Julia Dratel

I’ve been observing the artistic growth of Haley Fohr since she moved to Chicago in 2012 from Bloomington, Indiana. She’s matured in leaps and bounds since the release of her breakthrough album, In Plain Speech (Thrill Jockey), in 2015, but nothing could have prepared me for her achievements on the remarkable new Reaching for Indigo (Drag City)—which might be the best album I’ve heard in 2017. Early on, Fohr convinced me that she possessed lots of ideas, but at the time she seemed to struggle to sort through them. Now she fully commands her talents as a songwriter, singer, and arranger, and she’s forged a unified approach that reconciles her abiding feel for art-song experimentation, expansive folk, and psychedelia. Coproduced with Cooper Crain of Bitchin Bajas, Reaching for Indigo brilliantly frames her arresting voice: her commanding lower register is harnessed as a howling operatic force on “Black Fly,” and on “Paper Bag” her upper range is captured in stunning minimalist patterns that evoke the heyday of Philip Glass. Ornamented with a powerful swell of massive brass tones by trombonist Nick Broste, the stunning opening track, “Brainshift,” is a delicate, hymnlike meditation that seeks to capture a sudden, all-encompassing transformation that’s overcome the narrator. The galloping “A Story of This World Part II” features some of Fohr’s most far-flung vocal experiments, mixing wordless howls and melismatic whoops with a focus and precision missing from her earlier work. There’s no mistaking the influence of singers like Yoko Ono, Diamanda Galas, and Nico—whose album Chelsea Girl Fohr covered in a live show last month—but there’s nothing derivative about her new album. The only thing that’s more exciting than what Fohr has done here is contemplating what might come next.   v