Album Review: The Staves & yMusic – The Way Is Read

We’ve all been anxiously awaiting new music from the singing and songwriting Staveley-Taylor sisters, since their last full-length album If I Was – produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver in March 2015. This winter they have graced all their fans with the most fulfilling holiday gift: twelve brand new tracks. The Way Is Read is the third full-length studio album for the astonishing and remarkable Staves, and they have collaborated with NYC sextet orchestra yMusic, who also recently worked with The Tallest Man On Earth for his latest EP.

The album begins with a gorgeous, vocal lead-tune Hopeless, that gains its captivating power by The Staves inimitable harmonic blend. The vocal effects display an immense influence on their tour buddy and production wizard Justin Vernon, and although he’s not working the board for this project, Rob Moose, Brian Joseph and Jessica Staveley-Taylor contributed a flawless team production effort to make The Way Is Read a truly poignant work of musical art. Even songs like track two Take Me Home, which dominantly present a background / soundtrack / orchestral vibe from the New York sextet, still contain subtle elements of the powerful and lively Staves vocal waves.

Album single Trouble On My Mind produces an almost Broadway, musical theater familiar vocal tune. The fact that this entire album is a collaborative effort with an orchestra will not surprise listeners to discover this show tune theme pop-up from time to time. However, despite this reoccurring element, The Staves still manage to pull off a beautifully crafted record that continues to mold their own indie-folk genre.

Track five All My Life begins with a two-minute instrumental build up. The vocal tracks enter and it makes listeners imagine just exactly what the song would sound like if the girls stuck with acoustic guitars and other familiar folkie instruments and styles. The echoing instrumentals brilliantly recoloring the notes first presented by The Staves’ vocal melodies is perfectly sampled on Silent Side. Another magical theme that makes the music even more enjoyable on The Way Is Read is the call and answer imitation of musical phrases between the sister’s vocals and the boldly tight orchestral overtones. This repetition further enriches the beautiful melodies written by The Staves.

The rhythm and structure of track ten Appetite hints that the end of this musical journey is nearing. The fluttering flute notes mixed in with other jumpy, racing orchestral sounds from the yMusic ensemble contribute to this vibe. Then the title and closing track of the album features a strong finish in both vocals as well as edgy, suspenseful orchestral accompaniment, for a glorious end.

The Staves, alongside the colossal talent of yMusic, have proved on this record that they are willing to experiment with their predominantly acoustic, indie folk style by injecting their intimate magical vibes with traditional, orchestral and classical sounds. It’s bold, and it is truly beautiful.

Scott J. Herman