Sirens NW began by making music together at Evergreen State College in 2016, then played shows in Olympia, Washington and the Northwest through the next couple years. Band members include Logan (principal songwriter/acoustic guitar/lead guitar/vocals), Dante (guitars/bass), Orion (guitars/bass), Caroline (banjo/vocals) and Jason (drums). They added the “NW” to their name to differentiate themselves from the countless other “Sirens” on Spotify.
In 2018, before touring the country as “a low key folk duo dealio,” the band tracked all the rhythmic foundations for the songs on Not Aranda in an Olympia living room. Overdubs (guitars, banjo, vocals, etc.) and post production followed in New Mexico over the next couple years, resulting in this “time capsule” of an album. “We put a lot of time in the songs across those years,” they state, “and we hope that each of the parts feel lived in as a result, just the way it really sounded in the room with the band. Imperfections, chaos, little jam interludes, sadness and all.” The final album was mixed and mastered by songwriter Logan using Ableton Live and Pro Tools.
I became aware of Sirens NW through their other album, the excellent Medley For The Fall. That album reminded me of Mumford & Sons, Hozier, Grouplove and Passion Pit, and was very much an acoustic-sounding collection with lots of room presence and nature sounds. Not Aranda is not quite the same: it’s more alternative, classic, roots and even prog rock, though the various low-key “interludes” (short rehearsal snippets, band chatter, etc.) do recall the playful, anything goes spirit of Medley For The Fall. Most importantly, the folky songwriting chops that hovered beneath the experimental presentation of Medley For The Fall are given full flower here.
“Willow Trees” begins the album with tribal drums and a chiming bell-like melody on the guitars. Logan has a preternaturally lived-in voice, similar to songwriter Paul Williams, and I took to it immediately. The background chorus overdubs - here and throughout - are also lovely, and the combination of all these elements put me in mind of Radiohead with a folky flavor. Love the lyrics too: “Maybe your voice will drift back my way one day / Etched into these zeroes and ones / And I’ll listen to you / And just like how Bobby D’s used to / It’ll make me itch 'til I bleed melody.” The short instrumental ending is split over to track two, for some reason.
“Long Enough” is a fun, medium-fast boogie that feels totally live and authentic, thanks to the sounds of the rhythm section being directed in real time. Fuzz lead guitar follows along for the entire length of the song, sometimes locking into the melody, and other times providing counterpoint. Regarding fear of death, they sing: “Fear won’t keep me alive.” True that! And then you can hear them say: “All right. Good song. It’s about DEATH!”
“Bloodshot Eyes” features fast folky guitars and a Fleet Foxes-style vocal sandwich. There’s a very cool single-note middle section with the drums following along beat for beat. The theme of fighting for life is extended here: “Born in a minefield of pretenders / They said I’d never die but I would surely leave / I’ve got years, I’ve got months, I’ve got days to find it / A hopeless kind of courage that’ll get me through the flames.”
“A Thousand Times” is a small folk-rock miracle. It introduces lead vocals by Caroline that took me immediately to Of Monsters And Men, alternating and harmonizing with Logan’s cool, mature-sounding pipes. Tasty, funky middle section where the drummer - as he often will - doesn’t sweat absolute fidelity to tempo, instead moving and breathing with the band as a whole.
“Interlude II” is a short rehearsal or party snippet with a swooping smoke alarm screeching in the background - appropriately so for a band named after sirens! “Stay Still” is another great song with a cool, off-kilter beat and jazzy, snaky fuzz lead. “Love Songs” is a folky tune with prominent five-string banjo. I love the sentiment of “I’m sick of love songs / I ain’t sick of love.” Some of the nicest group vocals can be found here. “Interlude III” is a hard rock snippet with the band cutting loose, which crossfades into the gentle love song “Nothing More” again leaning into thoughts of mortality. “I’d like nothing more than to melt into that voice of yours / Let it hold me as I die a slow death.” There are actually two different choruses which are dramatic and unexpected, but absolutely perfect.
“Tired” starts out sounding a bit sleepy with wheezy Dylanesque harmonica and soaring male and female vocals. Sweet old-relationship sentiments include: “So you must be tired now of being near / You must be tired now of taking care / You take good care of me when I fall behind /And every single time I lose my mind.”
“All In” is something of a novelty tune, very funny in the style of the ’60s band The Fugs. “Interlude IV” is actually a stripped-down rehearsal for the next song, “Calamity” and the way the two tracks crossfade into each other is fascinating. There’s also a welcome return of the five-string banjo, leaning hard on the main three-note riff. Yet more dead-on fuzz guitar melodies and a cool solo follow, wailing away in a sea of background vocals. “Something Like This” ends the album in a gentle wash of acoustic instruments for a final, uplifting love song.
After their last album, I didn’t think I could like these guys any better, but I was wrong. In a perfect world, these songs and their players would be household words.
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