Saturday 17 November 2012

The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown

Forget the return of Girls Aloud.  Forget X-Factor winners Little Mix.  Forget any of the other girl bands.  There are two new sisterly trios bound for a 2013 rivalry – The Staves and Haim.  The family similarities might be obvious, but their styles are totally different.  Where Haim are edgy, influenced by Fleetwood Mac and 90s RnB, The Staves bring a folk-country beauty to their music.

And it’s The Staves who are first out of the starting block with ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, which follows their previous EPs ‘Mexico’, ‘The Motherlode’ and ‘Live At Cecil Sharp House’, in addition to supporting Bon Iver on his latest tour.  What’s immediately apparent is their sublime vocal harmonies.  Clearly well-practiced, the girls’ vocals blend in glorious union.  It’s as if you’re listening to one harmonious voice rather than three.  The vocals are accompanied by lilting guitar patterns that drift along as easily as a summer’s breeze.  Opening track Wisely & Slow begins acapella, before introducing organ, percussion, guitars and handclaps into the mix in a multi-layered showcase of their talents.  It’s a poignant start to the album.

Fans will be disappointed to hear that five of the twelve songs are taken directly from the group’s EPs.  A large proportion of the album is therefore new material, but these songs add nothing new to the girls’ sound.  The twelve songs, like the girls’ voices, blend together like a watercolour painting, but are individually indistinct.  As the girls’ themselves sing on Wisely & Slow, “time may spin and years may pass, the song is still the same”.

Further, where’s the grit?  Where’s the edginess?  Not one song is sung in a minor key.  Looking at the lyrics, there are moments of pain and mourning in the stories the girls sing.  But never has the lyric “I don’t give a fuck” been sung so sweetly.  Overall ‘Dead & Born & Grown’ is too nice, to gentle and polite, too…Radio 2.  At its best, the album offers beautiful harmonies to while away the hours.  At its worst, this will soundtrack the next Twinings advert.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Wisely & Slow
* Pay Us No Mind
* Winter Trees

Listen: 'Dead & Born & Grown' is available now.