Avalon is a New York-based duo composed of Michael Judge and Juliet Forshaw. Their debut EP Avalon, is a folksy musical trip into a fantasy world. Forshaw’s opera vocals mixed with Judge’s more subdued, rough sound creates the image of two musical worlds colliding.
Their songs conjure thoughts of Renaissance fairs with pretty maidens skipping along fields of wildflowers. I actually pictured scenes from the musical Camelot a lot while listening. Judge and Forshaw played all the accompanying instruments while recording at their home studio, which is impressive considering each song is very multidimensional.
The album starts with “Fire Night” and honestly I was a little shell-shocked until I realized that the overall result of the duet is intentionally satirical. The dramatically perky soprano vocals would be a little much without this context.
It’s a fun song and does a good job paving the path into the mystical journey of Avalon. It’s a nice lead into “Pied Piper” which has similar vibe although it manages to sound dark and ominous, even though there is a lot of flutes.
“Juliet” is a much softer track with an intricate acoustic guitar that makes a pretty foundation for the storytelling of the lyrics. It’s flowery and feminine with vivid imagery reminiscent of meadows and forests. I’m sure it’s no accident that “No Romeo” is next. This song has a cool vibe with a playful back and forth between the feminine and masculine vocals. “The Truth” features a lot of whistling, which although can be construed as annoying I actually found playful and endearing.
My favorite track is “Love Among the Ruins” which takes on a more bluesy feel. This takes down the folk a notch with a more stand alone sound and a catchy chorus. The vibe continues with “You Know Me” where the now familiar back and forth takes on a more sexy tone.
There were some songs that seemed almost unnecessary, like “Red, Red Ribbon” where Forshaw's vocals were kind of shrill and a little hard to listen to. But “Towards The Light” and “Make it Real” partly made up for it with a gothic and dark vibe full of intense lyrics. The final song “Avalon” was a perfect ending song for the album with a slow steady build up. It talks about the journey to Avalon which paints the picture of it being not just a place, but a state of mind.
It’s quite possible that Avalon may be an acquired taste, but the unique storytelling and satire makes it a worthwhile listen. Judge and Forshaw vocals are so vastly different that the fact that they actually blend very well together is a feat in itself.
The songwriting is clever and deliberate; each song is as if we’re eavesdropping in on a private conversation. I look forward to seeing where their next journey takes us.
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