Reviews:: The Love Songs for the New Record

Folk music, as a whole, seems to be disappearing. I’m not talking about freak-folk, which is becoming more and more popular by the second. I’m talking about traditional folk, kike Joni Mitchell, James Taylor or the Indigo Girls. The type of songs that steer away from tricks and instrumentation and simply rely on the strength of a voice and what is being said. Some acts, like the Essex Green – the beautiful Sin City is a perfect example – still can impress a listener with an acoustic riff and a great vocal melody. Another act with that skill is the New York based duo, The Love.

The Love is actually Jamie Stellini and Jessie Murphy, and on their new record – Songs for the New Record, it must be said that they play off each other perfectly. Their songs are backed by two guitars and vocals that harmonize well together (and drift into nice falsettos effortlessly). They know each other's strengths and weaknesses, share the spotlight or offer vocal support at just the right time.

They sing about being alone, living in a city, past loves. Like great folk singers, they sing about their lives but make it relate to yours. The vocal play and melody of Call You Home is like a modern take on an Indigo Girl’s classic. The muted strums of Wanting Again could be added to a Tegan and Sara set. Like these acts, Jamie and Jessie use traditional sounds, but the familiar sounds back modern themes. The plea of a friend to respect his girlfriend who dances for money is not something you’d expect on a folky, uptempo ditty like Honey, but it sounds great.

The thing with many folk duos (or to be honest, acoustic songwriters) is that songs start to meld into each other. Other than a few catchy numbers, bands are left trying to fill out a record. That’s what’s so great about the Love. They seem to be quite happy experimenting with sounds and arrangements. Instead of rushing the process, they seem to have really thought about not only the songs, but how the record plays as a whole. Adding electric jangle, keyboard effects and drums to the opening number – Heaven – gives the song a breath of fresh air. Sure, the vocals are the key, but there is more going on, so you want to keep listening. The record changes speeds and sounds without ever sounding forced or out of place.

Even on slower tracks, like Lift to the New Year, the duo uses a nice steel guitar or keys to bulk up the textures. I’m more of a fan of the catchier tracks like New York and Call You Home, but I appreciate the slower numbers as well. The gentle swell and the trading vocals of Still work great. It’s a surprisingly strong debut from a band I stumbled upon by accident when I was in NY this summer.

MP3:: Lift to the New Year
MP3:: Call You Home

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