There were more than a couple new albums that made choosing one for a review, quite difficult. After sampling new releases by acts like Death Cab For Cutie, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, Teenage Bottlerocket, Polar Bear and more, I landed on the sophmore album, “If I Was” by The Staves. They are the Staveley-Taylor sisters; Emily, Jessica and Camila from England. They released their first EP in 2010 and their first album in 2012. The sound was folk, with minimalist instrumentation on their earlier work, but with Bon Iver having produced “If I Was”, some things have changed, except for the focus on these three beautiful voices.
“Blood I Bled” starts with a single voice singing with a slightly celtic dialect. The pulsing percussion and even the brass, take this tune from one alone in the mist, to a gathering crowd around a bonfire. The strings and the sisters’ harmonies are heavenly.
The song that grabbed me when I was sampling, was “Steady”, mostly because of the instant harmonies. It isn’t necessarily folk, but more ethereal alternative and is only an inch from a deserving pop hit, but because of the cookie cutter curse of the music industry, we don’t have to worry about that.
“No Me, No You, No More” took my heart to that place of pain and loss, which is cradled in angelic voices. The song is a realization of the end of a relationship, while still fooling yourself into believing it is still alive.
There is both a plea and a personal warning about getting or being hurt on “Let Me Down”. It seems like the ride of a lifetime on someone else’s emotional rollercoaster built just for her. It is as if celtic folk performed by the Dixie Chicks with higher voices.
“Black & White” is a little Andrews Sisters in the 90’s. The soul piece is a little more unexpected, but impressive and enhanced by the horns.
There is a love song underlying “Damn It All”, but it is a true unselfish love song. A love that would give up what it loves, if it doesn’t want to be had. There is a second part to this tune that includes what seems to be a fuzzy accordian. Some terrific layering and an increasing layer of sound, which is awe-inspiring.
“The Shining” opens with jazzy piano sharing time with a beautifully elegant voice. The beat is big city and the electric guitar fits a band that doesn’t usually plug in that way. It could have been J. Mascis on guitar, it is so fuzzy.
The vibe on “Don’t Call Me Anymore” is a little 90’s soul, almost EnVogue with folk instrumentation.
“Horizons” is a pretty alternative folk folk number with gourgeous piano and some orchestral work, that only pushes the voices to new heights.
“Teeth White” is a little more of a southwestern tune, complete with a dose of jingle jangle. It reflects the idea that true happiness is deeper than the picture we paint of it for ourselves.
The snare drum owns all of the space under the harmonies on “Make It Holy”. There is a male voice on this cut and it adds a dose of the low end to vocal ranges.
The album closes with “Sadness Don’t Own Me” and I am reeling from the sheer balancing act of being crushed in emotion and amazed at the passion soaked vocals.
Wow!! I am not positive yet, but I think that “If I Was” by The Staves may be my favorite album, that I have reviewed, so far this year. There is definitely some credit owed to Bon Iver with the layers of sound and the addition of bigger instrumentation, but ultimately the true workload was carried by the Staveley-Taylor sisters and their voices. I have heard several different sister groups of the last few years, and though they usually mesh well, most aren’t left with the ability to be individually talented and blend so well with the siblings when it is necessary. As I listened to The Staves “If I Was”, I thought several times about the concept of the sirens song and determined if their voices sounded like these sisters, I would have surely crashed my boat into the rocks. I think this album is perfect for folk enthusiasts with an open mind and any audiophile that wants to hear a solid piece of work from beginning to end. if you are on the fence you should check-out this link for “Steady” here. That’s What I Know, So That’s What You Know!! Enjoy!!
HAPPY LISTENING!!!! 😉