In the past few years folk music has undergone a huge resurgence, coming in as the acoustic, emotional, and rawunderdog to the goliath that is the EDM craze. With so many indie-folk acts coming out, however, it’s become hard to keep track, let alone know how to stand out, among all the new and established artists. But with his debut EP Through The Days, young Vancouver, B.C. based singer-songwriter Layten Kramer has shown us that he has all the right pieces to create his niche and make himself both memorable and worthwhile.
Layten defines his music as experimental folk, and although he pushes the genre on a couple of tracks, I don’t think he needs to push it any farther – he’s found what works. Like on the track “Grown Ups”, the guitar and bass lead on the verse come close to sounding like a (much) milder version of Canadian reggae-ska group Bedouin Soundclash. And on the song “Pendulum” Layten uses some distorted electric guitar that doesn’t quite fit perfectly into the folky genre, but then again neither does Layten, and they still feel like they belong on and contribute to the EP as a whole.
A small criticism is that some of the lyrics, in contrast to the emotion and texture of the instruments, can be one-dimensional and don’t carry that same spark that makes the rest of Layten unique. The story can get too familiar too quickly, and we don’t get enough of a glimpse of who Layten is as an artist and a person. “We have one life; so live it well; do what you’ve got to do; have a story to tell”, he sings on “Through the Days”. It feels like a lyric I’ve heard before, albeit told in a refreshing way.
“Passing of Time” can feel the same way at times. The gallop-strum guitar pushes at a brisk pace, the trumpet echoes to make the song feel like a wide-open space, and his voice ties it all together – except the lyrics don’t bring you to any of the places that the instruments create. Some broader influences, more flowery language, would give the listener that extra something to grab onto and push the songs from ‘very good’ to ‘great’.
The standout track, “Sea of Glass”, showcases perfectly where Layten is capable of going. His voice is unrefined and held back - critical for the raw and sincere feel - and the guitar provides the folky warmth that we’ve come to expect. He also takes his lyrics further: “I often go down and visit their bodies in glass; When I look around I see my past”, capturing the calmness and earnestness of the track while giving us something to appreciate while we listen to it. In the second half of the song the simple, pounding drums punctuate the warm guitar as the trumpets grow and grow to give the track the final push. This is a fantastic song.
It’s easy to see how a genre that relies on a sort of raw minimalism to drive its emotional intensity would diminish as more instruments are added, but on this EP Layten Kramer has found just the right touch. The trumpet and church organ synths, while layered with smooth folk style guitar and a signature vocal style, give his songs the feeling of completeness. If you’re a fan of The Tallest Man on Earth, Band of Horses, Ben Howard, and the like, Layten Kramer gives us flashes of each of them. With some small tweaks, he has the potential to release a full-length album that is sure to garner a lot of attention.
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