The Staves – Good Woman

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Released: February 5, 2021

Usually, it’s a good thing when a group tries to move beyond the strict confines of their sound. Without that impetus, we’d have no Sgt. Peppers, no Heroes, no Achtung Baby. It’s the boldness that moves the art of making music forward. That being said, it is not something to undertaken lightly or carelessly. The artist or group has to have a strong sense of the creative strengths that formed its work up to that point. They have to be centered.

That brings us to the trouble with Good Woman. The Staves are trying to expand their sound. While that could be a noble effort, they seem to have mostly lost their way, lost their center which is quite simply their harmonies. They have added more to their arrangements with each record, moving slowly from the sparse folk of their 2012 debut, Dead & Born & Grown, but their beautiful harmonies always found their way to the forefront. The live Pine Hollow EP from 2018 may be the most stunning display. Yet on Good Woman, they seem to have forgotten that. In moving to fuller instrumentation, the interaction of their voices gets lost and the result is, well, common.

The Staves do re-find themselves somewhat in the middle of the album. “Next Year, Next Time” and “Nothing’s Gonna Happen” don’t get completely overwhelmed. “Sparks” and “Trying” are the only tracks that really rise above the mundane though. It’s only subtle differences, but those small bits of the Staves’ core are elevated rather than mired in the unexceptional. It’s just not enough to make up for how boring Good Woman is overall. For every good moment, there are two guitar breaks that could have appeared on any run of the mill light rock record.

The two songs really worth hearing are just not enough to recommend the album as a whole, especially when the simplicity of their debut or Pine Hollow and the successful boldness of The Way is Read just showcase all that is wonderful about the Staves without having to nap through the slow parts.

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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