Charm of Finches are a duo of sisters Mabel Windred-Wornes( vocals, piano, guitar, cello) and Ivy Windred-Wornes ( vocals, violin, ukulele, glockenspiel) from Melbourne, Australia. They have been building a strong following in their native land over the last few years, and on the strength of this album, hopefully they will start to extend their listening audience internationally. This is their second album and it's a treat!
Their own website describes their sound as "Haunted folk tunes delivered in their signature angelic sibling vocal harmonies and a chamber folk sensibility," and that seems a pretty good description to me. There is plenty of a kind of gothic, mysterious atmosphere evoked by these songs. The sound is both very contemporary and timeless. The visual image of the sisters on the album artwork adds to this. They appear like a Pre-Raphaelite painting, evoking both historical and mythological times. There are aspects to their sound that are reminiscent of other sibling harmony groups such as The Unthanks, and Wildwood Kin but they have definitely developed their own approach to harmony and songwriting.
The opening track, "The Bridge" sets out the musical stall well. A strong melody, sing-a-long refrain and crisp but warm harmonies with gentle uncrowded instrumental backing, the two voices weaving in and out and around each other, neither dominating or driving the other. The following track "Lies" opens with a bouncy banjo riff that provides a strong contrast - and the tempo is enough to lift the mood despite the subject matter.
The sisters acknowledge Sufjan Stevens as an influence and this can be detected in the way a very simple instrumental motif is enough to hold up quite a complex architecture of surprising melody, harmony and sparse instrumentation. This can be heard well in "Her Quiet Footsteps" where simple piano chords support everything else, and in the delicate and fragile "Paint Me a Picture" - one of my favourites on the album.
The two voices beautifully interact on "In The Gloaming" as they appear solo, in unison and in harmony to ethereal effect, and "Where do the Ducks Go?" is another highlight for me: a lovely wistful song with thoughtful and melancholy lyrics.
On "Good Luck" the sisters are joined on vocals by Cian Bennet and it's quite a shock to hear a male voice at this stage in the album! However, it blends perfectly when the sisters join in and adds another layer of depth to the overall sound, as does Cian's beautiful trumpet playing during this track.
"Your Company" is a beautiful, contemplative song to finish with.
It is important to say a word about the production and instrumentation on this album. It is a perfect example of using instrumentation and mixing to create space, not to fill it. Complex patchworks and touches of texture are always supportive of - and not fighting against- the melody, vocal harmonies and lyrics. Each song sits very comfortably alongside the others while the album provides a wide variety of tone and while there is a consistency of themeatic subject matter, there is nothing repetitive in the songwriting, which is innovative and imaginative both musically and lyrically.
This is a collection of songs that unashamedly confront sadness, loss and grief but it is certainly not depressing listening! On the contrary, the overall effect is uplifting and cathartic. Not an easy trick to pull off… and Ivy and Mabel do it with great skill by presenting a collection of recordings of real beauty and subtlety. Gorgeous.
|Frank Birtwistle: Volumes One to Four||Betsy Phillips: Like We're Talking|
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