sat 15/05/2021

Album: The Staves - Good Woman | reviews, news & interviews

Album: The Staves - Good Woman

Album: The Staves - Good Woman

The Staveley-Taylors kick over the traces

Sing out, sisters

The Staves – Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor – have routinely been described as “an indie folk act”, and while the term folk has undergone a lot of stretching over the years the band’s first two albums – Dead & Born & Grown and If I Was – could broadly be said to fit, their latest, Good Woman, requires redefinition.

The Staves – Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor – have routinely been described as “an indie folk act”, and while the term folk has undergone a lot of stretching over the years the band’s first two albums – Dead & Born & Grown and If I Was – could broadly be said to fit, their latest, Good Woman, requires redefinition.

The album – recorded in London with producer John Congleton – comes after a six-year gap, though the three sisters began writing the material for it in 2017. But matters of life, death and birth intervened, leading to the sisters regrouping in Britain and poised to tour last year before events put paid to everyone’s plans. Good Woman is a long way indeed from their acoustic roots, all loops and electro-pop and ambient noise, though the close and distinctive harmonies remain. The bridge between the two styles was The Way Is Read, an album with the New York-based chamber sextet yMusic, a bold and exciting collaboration – the arresting acapella opening, “Hopeless”, with its daring harmonies, sticks in the mind, while “Courting Is a Pleasure” fused a traditional-sounding folk melody with jerky, dissonant motifs. Adventurous stuff. 

There are hints of that venture (the opening of “Best Friend” for example) in Good Woman, a sonic quilt that offers moments of minimalism amid the big production, with patches of Kate Bush, Blondie and much besides. There are some interesting textures – grungy guitars and bass combined with delicate vocal harmonies on “Careful Kid”, the sound collage of “Sparks” which vanishes into thin air. But for me the most affecting tracks are those with light and air: “Nothing’s Gonna Happen”, which showcases the Staves’ exquisite harmonies floating gossamer-light above an instrumental backing that begins with a neatly picked acoustic guitar riff, the thread around which everything else (a mix of real and synthesized instruments) coalesces;  “Paralysed”, which begins with deceptive simplicity, just one voice and ukulele.

“Trying”, with its chorale-like vocal textures, all but segues into “Waiting On Me To Change” which pivots around a distinctive and insistent keyboard motif and synthesised strings, the multitracked vocals building into a sonic symphony before resolving harmonically and fading into oblivion.

Good Woman is something of a curate’s egg, but one that’s likely to make The Staves many new admirers even if it doesn’t appeal to all the old fans. I'm curious to hear where they go next.

A sonic quilt that offers moments of minimalism amid the big production, with patches of Kate Bush, Blondie and much besides

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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