There’s a reason nowadays that so many bands in the indie rock conglomerate are linked together. That reason is that they all live in within a two square mile radius somewhere in Brooklyn. I’m not going to name names. I have enough people in my own city that probably wish me dead on a daily basis; I don’t need a surprise knife in the back from a guy with a really cool haircut and a jean jacket. Of course these are cheap shot generalizations and there are a ton of bands that probably fit that demographic that I do actually like quite a bit. But I often wonder do I like them because of their music or do I like them because they get hyped up enough my mind makes me want to like them no matter what. But then the four-song EP I Left the City comes across my desk. The singer songwriter behind it, Amber Wolfe, is no one I’ve ever heard of and yet I am immediately drawn in by her subtle and matter of fact delivery and the sparse acoustic guitar that accompanies her on each track.
Amber Wolfe grew up in the DC area and then moved to Northampton Massachusetts in 2009 to study at Smith College where she befriended likeminded musicians. She then decided to make a permanent home in the Pioneer Valley. But when it came time to record I Left the City she returned home to Maryland and made the record with her childhood friend and longtime collaborator Tommy Sherrod.
I Left the City opens with the spare and sweet “Sugaring Season.” Soft pin pricks of acoustic guitar and Wolfe’s honeyed and warm vocals have the effect of the first warm rays of a sunrise. There is nothing special or catchy about it. It is plain and simple. Yet it sticks with you in an odd way, it is a tune you find yourself humming and smiling too long after it’s over. Next comes the beautifully haunting tape hiss imbued “No Thorn.” Here Wolfe delights with lyrics singing, “You say that I’m beautiful, beautiful asleep / but awake / not awake.” The words seem to fall from her mouth and her tone is both questioning but it also seems that she believes there’s some truth to what she is questioning. It’s quite a contrast to the twang-y, sly Patsy Cline invoked stance she takes on “I Want More.” Wolfe returns to her dark and self-inflicted coyness on the final track “High Tides.”
I Left the City is about as bare bones an EP as they come. It’s hollow but not shallow. The thing is one can’t simply go on making sparse bedroom-styled recordings for too long. Sooner or later the ante has to be upped. Though Amber Wolfe has definitely sparked an interest in me and I’m sure others as well. I’m already anticipating her next move.
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