Subtly is not one of modern music’s strong suits. From the loudness wars which seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for compact discs, to the huge blossoming movement of margining indie rock with epic hip-hop, there seems to be a strong lack of artists who do more with less.
A notoriously whimsical genre like folk is being re-imagined with bombastic chorus’ and impeding explosions of sound. You have Mumford and Sons and Fleet Foxes to blame for that. But modern folk is not all massively overproduced and sprawling. Subtly still exists in brief little burst of excitement, and it lies all over the latest EP release ‘The Escape’ by The Whispering Tree.
The group’s EP finds a soothing sullen medium between whimsically endearing and folksy fun. The songs seem to breathe with their own life. Album highlight is ‘No Love,’ a pop folk gem that introduces an eccentric fresh new solo from the group. You hear that the band is a bit more rambunctious than with their absolutely stellar debut album ‘Go Call the Captain.’ Captain was a far different affair, relying on more of an aura and ballad-driven drama than the more dance-folk groove that enlightens their EP.
As we look at the latest EP from the group, we tend to revisit their 2010 full-length release, and witness an astounding growth in just a few short years. That album is mesmerizing. ‘Las Vegas’ is an introspective plod through the back door alleys of an unforgivable city. ‘Song to Silence the World’ has subtly in spades, harnessing a synergy that is captivating while also being delicate. It also builds as the song progresses, relying on the oh so effective crescendo, and a clear album highlight.
This is the strongest suit of the album. Many tracks rise and dip with this level of tension. While some teeter close to downright beauty, others become sullenly atmospheric. Yet few of the tracks ever fall right over from their own weight into one of these two directions. This could be seen as a fault, for without ever remaining dedicated to a certain tone, the album seems to meander. Fortunately, it is anything but. The tension resonates brilliantly. ‘The Tallest’ is a gorgeous ballad that remains just tense and interesting enough not to be one dimensional. It is also a great defense for why front woman Eleanor Kleiner is one of the best vocalists in indie rock.
The album is a luminous adventure. Where the energy dips, the balladry resonates. And where the folksy jam numbers surface, say in the form of ‘So Many Things,’ they never resort to silly superfluous pop. They seem to leave an impression, despite all initial expectation seeing it as nothing but filler. It’s a change of pace, and helps to assist the flow of the album to full effect.
I reserve very little judgment for a debut album. The band has no reason to be unlikable, and has no name to hold to- yet. You always should go into a debut album with a fresh set, and it is a reinvigorating and uncomfortable process to do time and time again. This EP is an extension of that naivety that brought me into the band in the first place. It plays off their original sound with such success and radiance. ‘The Whispering Tree’ is almost eloquently attuned to their name. The songs seem natural and organic, and the vocals whisper and spur an uplifting nature to any listener. By the time ‘Washed Ashore’ closes the record, you have an obvious admiration for a band who sound so professional cleansed yet so elegantly constructed from a source of real soul.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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