by Sarah Groth
The Staves – sisters Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor – recently released their new album, The Way Is Read, through Nonesuch Records. They created this twelve track album in collaboration with the New York City chamber sextet ensemble group, yMusic. The combination of this English indie folk trio and six instrumentalists is an art piece overflowing with captivating harmonic blends and intricate orchestral ranges.
To begin their album, the sister’s artfully blend their graceful voices in a shortened cappella piece called, “Hopeless”. It contains a hint of a church choir feel, but also a strong naturistic element that could blow the stained glass off of any cathedral’s windows. The transition between the first track and the next, “Take Me Home” does contain an evident uncomfortable feel. This sudden disconnect could be due to yMusic’s instruments overpowering the trio’s voices right from the start.
It’s the third track, “Trouble On My Mind” that raises the bar on the album’s overall quality and the stunning talent and composure of The Staves’s vocals. While the viola and violin set a disconsolate tone, the trumpet and sister’s fill the atmosphere with eery and heart wrenching sounds that will surely cause your own heart to quicken it’s pace. The next song, “Bladed Stance” is a peaceful instrumental focused track, with a forest feel by the way the flute flutters about like a bird. There’s a perfect balance in transition to the next track, “All My Life”, as the flute continues to breathe out those franticly soaring beats right from the introduction. It’s the vulnerable rawness The Staves unleash in lyrics such as, “Never been so here in my love. Never been so scared in my life.” that gives this song the power to resonate with listeners on a deeply personal and powerful level.
“Silent Side” holds onto a warm, soft melody through yMusic’s relaxing strings and the sister’s calming vocals. The way these two groups coalesce so flawlessly in this song makes it worthy of a replay. Similar to the song it follows, “Year of the Dog” showcases the way the sisters and yMusic can wholly interlace their music to fashion a track with a uniqueness of it’s own breed. Those lovely harmonizing voices turn rather hauntingly near the end of this song, and I dare you not to drop your jaw in awe when you hear it.
“Courting Is a Pleasure” may be the weakest song on the album. Unlike the two previous songs, yMusic and The Staves’s sounds do not fuse well together and instead sound chaotic and disorienting. The next two tracks, “All the Times You Pray” and “Appetite” share a sibling relationship with the repeated lyric, “Tell me all the times you prayed”. Though “Appetite” has a slight increased tempo, it’s still easy to miss the song change due to these songs akin melodious vibes. In “Spring of Thyme” the sister’s dive into the tragic absence felt from mistrust and stolen time while the clarinet lonely hovers in the distance. The final track, “The Way Is Read” lets the trio steal the stage while displaying the full extent of their wide vocal ranges with an upbeat, esthetic feel.
The Way Is Read is an album brimming with musical risks, and though at times potential seemed to be misplaced, The Staves and yMusic undeniably created some beautiful tracks with a hidden ingredient one might call magic.