Record Radar: Two indie folk-rock bands, only one that didn’t suck
MOVE columnist Kennedy Simone reviews new releases from indie folk-rock bands.
The newly cold weather brings a lot of strange changes in the universe. The leaves go from green to rust and fall from their branches, frost forms, and the sweet times of the warm summer become mere memories then nostalgia.
If you ask me, autumn weather brings out a special sound in folk musicians. Listen to “For the Company,” the recently released album by Little May, an Australian three-piece indie folk-rock band, for the perfect soundtrack for this season’s sweater weather.
Opening track “Cicadas” is immaculate. As I write this, I’ve listened to it more than 13 times in the last hour. Passionate in nature, the song’s focal element is the drums that build up the track into its atmospheric brilliance. According to an article by Rolling Stone Australia, band member Annie Hamilton refers to the track as a “repetitive meditation,” and that’s exactly how this track feels from the listener’s perspective. “Cicadas” is hauntingly lovely.
So does the rest of the album match up to the quality of the first track? Second track “Sold” isn’t my favorite, but not for lack of quality. “Sold” consists of drums, strings and guitars all playing at a relatively high volume, making vocals a competing element on the track. The ladies of Little May all have beautiful voices and amazing songwriting abilities. Their vocals and lyrics deserve to be heard and should be working with the music, not against it.
Jumping to sixth track “Seven Hours,” this song is an example of the voices of Little May actually working together with the instruments to create an amazing track. With the hook, “Need you to give me back my lungs so my body can forgive me,” Little May achieves poeticism and aural perfection that seems effortless.
Shifting around the globe, our second Record Radar contestant for this week is English band Bear’s Den. The deluxe version of its album “Islands” was released last week. How does the band match up to Little May? Unfortunately, Bear’s Den proved to be no competition at all.
A lively opening track, “Agape” is still the song that doesn’t let you forget how closely associated the band is with fellow indie folk-rock band Mumford & Sons. Lyrically, the track touches on the matter of knowing that a love won’t last, but still holding onto the fantasy out of fear. Sadly, the banjo-driven vibe has been too overdone for me to really appreciate the song.
Slowing the tempo down a bit, “Magdalene” hits the bullseye on boring. Lyrically, the song is one of a kind. Telling the story of women kept in the historic Magdalene laundries after being deemed too promiscuous for freedom in society, I’ve never heard a song like this, and chances are that you haven’t, either. However, when it comes to pure sound, Bear’s Den is the Great Value band of acoustic rock. With a “been-there-done-that” style, it’s hard for me to even listen to it without my mind wandering elsewhere.
If you’re wondering if things get any better from here, the simple answer is “no”. Tenth track “Bad Blood” is an apology track for the singer being untrusting and vengeful of his lover. Like “Magdalene,” this track suffers the same tragic flaw of its predecessors and can’t commit to a sound unique enough to keep my eyelids open.
While Bear’s Den is a great band that makes heartfelt pieces, it’s not authentic in its sound. It has the feel of too many indie folk bands that we’ve all heard before, turning its music into mere ambient noise rather than songs that you can really connect to. On the contrary, Little May has a sound that can be compared to other artists, but has enough emotion in its lyricism to allow them to stand alone without those comparisons being the listener’s main focus. Little May has a raw energy and an unparalleled awareness of how its music feels, making them this week’s Record Radar winner.
Song: All The Way Down Artist: Kelela
PBR&B singer Kelela released her her debut mixtape “Cut 4 Me” in 2013. Critically acclaimed on all fronts, fans and music experts alike have been waiting for her EP “Hallucinogen” to drop. The release date has now come and gone, and it’s clear that Kelela isn’t an artist that disappoints. “All The Way Down,” the fourth track from the recently released EP, has that sound trip-hop fans crave. Maintaining her sexy and mysterious aesthetic, Kelela sings about being “down” for her lover however necessary over an experimental beat from production veteran DJ Dahi. Kelela is definitely proving to be a forerunner in the new wave of alternative artists.