Pitchfork did me the lovely favor of describing the band right away - "the Erika Wennerstrom-fronted Cincinnati blues rock quartet." They're often compared to The Black Keys, so I'm hoping for a really awesome listen today.
This is their first album after being signed to Partisan (based out of Brooklyn, word). Rolling Stone described them as a "small-town band ready to take on the big city with no mercy." While the group is very clearly spoken for by Erika, who seems to be the lead writer and one that we're usually talking about subject-wise throughout the album, she also mentions that they are more connected than ever for this recording.
Here's the full album stream link on Spotify.
For a name like this, we start off with a very light song, with a very airy voice in "Marathon." She almost reminds me of Florence. It's almost an encouragement song, realizing we are on a long road of tough times. We all want to achieve more than ourselves (her words, not mine), but the bigger thing to take away from this is that we can't be alone in it - accept help. The vocal harmonies are almost like the folk albums we've listened to, though Erika's voice is clearly dominant.
It seems like after we've found our way 'home' in that last song, we pick up the pace a little. I can't say I totally understand every word she's saying, but I love it musically. Let's take a look at the one video I have to share today for "Parted Ways."
"Got To Have Rock And Roll" got me excited because I think this is exactly what this band should be doing. I love them instrumentally thus far; it's just the vocal effects that aren't sitting right. Same goes in this song. There's some weird echo effect input to her voice that throws the whole thing off a little bit. It takes getting used to, mostly because you loose words with this kind fo effect and thus loose the connection that I think her lyrical work was going for.
In a higher-pitched manner, possibly even a love song, we get "Only For You." At least here her voice is a bit more pure and enjoyable. It's directed to someone, whoever that may be. While it's not a song for my ears, I do like the treatment through. The guitar line is romantic and even sexy when we get to hear it alone. The rest remains fairly simple backing, but again, they've got something awesome instrumentally.
"Simple Feeling" is more off from the rest of the album so far. It's almost got a feel that we've been transported back to the 60's. I see where her influences are definitely showing, not only in vocal tones, but in mixing treatments as well. The guitars and bass line even exemplify this sound we only hear in acid-trip films on a semi-regular basis.
I think I can finally niche this band a little better in my head as a new group with an old sound. "Skin And Bone" is just showing that same recording technique as the last song, though it's not quite as heavily used. Interesting how the effects on her voice go between distorted and pure, almost for each track. This one's got a really good steady instrumental backing that keeps it moving in a very familiar way. I think it's just a progression we've heard often enough, and the voice is what keeps the song different.
"The Arrow Killed The Beast" is back to the echo, but I think more of it was placed on the instruments as well. There's an old-west feeling to the song itself actually, making it applicable for films in some way. Unfortunately, by the point, I'm having a tough time accepting the lyrics of the song internally because I've become so focused on the instrumental portions of the music. They just carry so much more passion and draw interest. The vocals draw the song on longer than it should be, just because of the over-done effects on it.
A total twist in the rock feel, we get "Late In The Night." Yes, there's an older sound to this, almost like 60's rock, but the recording techniques didn't totally bury that in airy nostalgia. The voice doesn't hurt it either - it blends very well, sticking to what we need. The beat is so good and easy to hear. The guitar stays rough but perfect for the sound. Spot on with this one, really.
"Low Low Low" is depressing though. It almost takes on this interesting Asian sound to the guitar as first, like they're experimenting a little bit, which I can respect for a song or two on an album. This was tough to handle though; maybe it was a little too jarring of a new song. I think I also, oddly, missed some kind of stronger drum bea throughout.
The final song we're played out with is "Down In The Canyon." It's a slow lead out of the album overall, definitely bringing us down and down and down, as the music and voice lull us out of the rock we had maybe been enjoying, but leaving these little reminiscent bits to trail off to. I think it's a great wrap-out of the album as a whole.
Added To My Playlist:
- "Got To Have Rock And Roll"
- "Late In The Night"
- "Down In The Canyon"
My impression of this album is that it really was well put-together and thought out before, during, and after execution. There are roots displayed with a constant fight to remain unique and different to themselves. Overall, it's a great album that just needs to find its right audience and place in the musical realm.