To celebrate the announcement of their recent UK tour in the autumn, The Staves have added a handful of tracks to gorgeous album If I Was. Produced by the heart-achingly talented Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, If I Was demonstrates the maturing and continually elegant sound created by The Staves. With a band name derived from ethereal surname Staveley-Taylor, sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla started winning the world over with their sweet harmonies and acoustic folk rock in 2010 with the release of early EPs. Compared to debut Dead & Born & Grown, time spent tucked away in Vernon’s April Base Studio in Wisconsin has added poignant and introspective elements to their otherwise twee and cutesy aura.
We’re treated to two brand new tracks, two live versions of songs already on the album, and an evocative cover of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire, all of which cohere with themes at the core of their album, alluding to heartbreaks and emotional pulverisation. Confident and witty as they seem to be during interviews and on stage, the Staveley-Taylor sisters convey a certain frailty through bitter lyricism and otherworldly vocal abilities. Hopeless mirrors No Me, No You, No More in shining the limelight on their magnificent harmonies. We are blessed with two minutes of The Staves’ silken and pure voices, leaving backing instruments in the dust. A minimalist composition and uncomplicated texturing truly makes sense of the phrase ‘less is more’.
Whereas Springsteen submerses us in the Johnny Cash-inspired rhythm and a relaxed rockabilly beat, The Staves’ cover of I’m On Fire replaces his sexually-tensed lyrics with a softened sense of desire. Gentle strokes of the acoustic guitar combine with dense percussions to quietly overwhelm listeners and produce immense power behind their delicate veneer. These added tracks are not only testament to the Watford trios’ incredible talent. There is a vivid sense of defiance in their recent music that tells us how utterly unstoppable they have become.
“If I Was”, originally released 14 October (Atlantic Records), get the full album with bonus tracks here.
written by Ha Vu