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Album Review: The Staves – If I Was
It’s been a few years since the release of The Staves’ first studio album, so it’s only fitting that If I Was has come at a time when fans have begun to yearn for a new record. Debut album Dead & Born & Grown was an embodiment of the foundational roots of The Staves – a sound that draws on folk tradition and is uniquely elevated by continual harmonies. In spite of their widely acknowledged blend of vocal harmonies, If I Was adequately stretches the boundaries and artistic parameters that may have been set by previous releases. The resulting outcome is an authentic record littered with new creative outlets and inspirations.
Right from the first listen through, it is clear that the record has been beautifully conceived by some very talented individuals. As what can only be described as a musical match that nears perfection, the influences from producer Justin Vernon – who provides a vocal feature on Make It Holy – tie in superbly with the vocal and lyrical talent of The Staves. Like any piece of music that points an artist to a new direction, there is so much to be encountered and rediscovered by just taking in the record in its entirety without any pre-determinations on the outcome.
Part of this new direction is a recurring influence of a new electronic infusion on the record. This is particularly impressive on Teeth White and Black & White where the raised tempo and musical arrangements, bring to light a refreshing playful aspect to The Staves’ writing and harmonies. One thing that remains strong throughout this record and previous releases, is the extent to which their relationship as sisters is drawn into their writing and musical performance. With a heart stopping chorus, Let Me Down is a stand out illustration of this and is possibly one of the most beautifully composed pieces on the record.
There’s been a a lot of talk recently on various artists and their departure from the acoustic/’folk’ dimension. The most recent of these is Mumford & Sons’ “ditching of the banjo”. Although The Staves have not necessarily made the same move, as with other artists such as Laura Marling, If I Was is testament to the amount of potential there is to be reached when artists choose to step out of prescribed confines and into an evolved sound. This expansion is a challenge The Staves have successfully taken head on to produce a record that is an exploration and extension of an already existing musical passion.