Album Review: The Staves – Blood I Bled EP

By on Monday, 27th October 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

The Staveley-Taylor sisters – Emily and Jessica and Camilla – are better known as the Staves, now well known for their jaw-droppingly brilliant, familial-driven harmonies. When you’re this good, you don’t need a whole lot of instrumentation, and I feel pretty honoured to have seen them play a stripped back session as part of the bill put together by Communion Records’ Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons fame at my first SXSW in 2012.

After several early high-profile touring slots supporting the likes of the (now defunct) Civil Wars and their most current highly acclaimed and sold out UK tour this month, it seems strange that the three sisters haven’t released a follow up to 2012 debut album ‘Dead & Born & Grown’ yet. One can only assume that they’ve biding their time, continually honing their craft and choosing to release music only a trickle at a time, under their own terms. The latest from the Staves’ fountain comes in the form of the three-track EP ‘Blood I Bled’, out today on Atlantic Records.

In a classic example of an artist suffering for their art, the EP was produced in the dead of winter in Wisconsin by Bon Iver mastermind Justin Vernon. Just from the title alone, you know already this was going to be a painful affair. The title track has been released as a single and as should be expected, ‘Blood I Bled’ is the standout on the EP. The lyrics speak of a storm coming (“calm the gathering rain”) but of a relationship confused: “suffering as I suffer you / you when you speak of pain / if I was, if I am, if I did, if I have”. The strings and horns lend an amazing grandeur to what might have been an otherwise sparse Staves track, and they suit the powerful vocals, expressing conflict and bewilderment, well.

‘Open’ opens the EP initially gently and pleasingly but as the song rolls on, it seems like Vernon’s contribution was to make this release dark, as crackles and an ominous backbeat more suited to Patrick Wolf’s darker days give the song an overall unsettling feeling. Third track ‘America’ reads like a love letter to their temporary home, the girls requesting “do not disturb me ‘til the morning”, while “drinking in the evening and sinking in the sun”. Less dramatic than ‘Open’ and less emphatic than ‘Blood I Bled’, it’s more the sweetly-finishing song that most Staves listeners are used to. It’s a nice enough group of songs; there is little to criticise here, except maybe more variety between the tracks would have added some autumnal spice?

7/10

The ‘Blood I Bled’, the latest from the Staves, is out today on Atlantic Records. If you purchase the EP from iTunes, you’ll also get a bonus track, a special remix of ‘Open’ by Justin Vernon that you can listen to below.

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