Saturday, July 21, 2012

Album Review - A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door by River Whyless

A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door was released
on March 1, 2012
A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door is a debut album unlike many, while River Whyless has been active for years now as Do It To Julia, the band made the move to Asheville and dropped not only their moniker, but their style of songwriting.  Since their name change and move the band has flourished in every way, whether it be their lush orchestration or their developed and picturesque lyricism, River Whyless has completely revamped their approach to music.

A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door received a physical release on March 1, 2012 and the band has been touring non-stop since, hitting up SXSW, Daytrotter, and our great northern brethren in Canada.  It seems as if River Whyless has finally found their niche within this beautiful baroque folk they're producing, and it feels like they've got a lot more developing left to do.

The album opener "Leaf", sets the tone brilliantly for the rest of the album.  It affirms the band's traditional roots with a wonderful violin part meshing perfectly with the slow croon of Ryan O'Keefe as he pours his heart out with lines like, "At the top of the morning/At the bottom of night/You were sleeping closer to him/And I wept in the stairwell/That's where our love I said to farewell/I had just let you go/To the god that I'd never know".  Halli Anderson's vocals serve as the perfect harmony within lines such as these, the two have a feeling of sincerity within their voice that play perfectly off of one another.  As the album unfolds both songwriters have their own defining moments, but the band shines brightest when the two vocalists are playing off of one another.

On the wonderful 7 minute masterpiece, "Stone", O'Keefe sings out "Is god just another word for company/That I don't need".  Lines such as these are hidden within the album and find themselves surrounded by such wonderful orchestration that they oftentimes may go unnoticed, but that's the joy of River Whyless.  You can immerse yourself in two facets of this band, they've layered these song with intricacies within not only their lyricism, but also their instrumentation.  On "Stone", O'Keefe and Anderson trade vocal duties within verses that display a certain honesty and vulnerability that feels fluid rather than forced.

It's right around the "Cedar Dream" series that the band's plethora of influences begin to show.  Filled with foot-stomping rhythms and wonderful melodies, this three part piece unfolds brilliantly throughout the album.  With refrains that stick in your head for days, the band blends post-rock's immensity with classical music's subtleties, topped off with the jaunting rhythms and haunting harmonies of contemporary folk.  It's rare to see a band doing something so original within such an over-saturated folk scene like that of the North Carolina mountains, but River Whyless are doing just that.  Tracks like  "Unfound Door" highlight their rustic wonders towards the end of the album yet seamlessly bleeds into "Pigeon Feathers" with ease, closing with the line "My hands are steady on the wheel" and they couldn't be more so.  River Whyless has a definite sense of direction within this album, while each song can stand out on it's own, they all mesh together so beautifully it's a crime not to sit down and give this album a thorough listening to each time.  If I were you I'd be doing just that.  The album is streaming in it's entirety on Bandcamp, but I'd highly recommend a purchase.  Expect to see a lot more of this band in the future, they've got endless potential and an open road ahead of them.

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