Threads and Vowels is a two-piece that makes music that feels as old as the hills themselves. When you listen to their album Continental Grift the songs are original but they have a traditional quality to them like they have always been there. One reason for this is their choice of instrumentation. Warm strings, acoustic guitars and a mix of percussive elements that sound organic instead of over-produced. You can visualize these guys playing these songs by a wood cabin in the hills. Evan Setzer and Eric Delia are the talent behind this project. Delia tackles a fair amount on vocal duties, is the primary lyricist and plays guitar while Setzer is a multi-instrumentalist who is classically trained in guitar and cello. Continental Grift is an album that does a good job at not only displaying their innate talent and their capacity to work together but how they can make each one of the five songs on the album sound unique while not veering too far from the their traditional folk sound.
The album starts things off by getting us energized with “Charles River.” After about 20 seconds of this serene ambient noise that I wouldn't have minded hearing more of you are suddenly introduced to an intricate percussive pattern that drives the energy of the song. The acoustic guitar provides the background melody but the vocals are what the band wants you concentrating on. They harmonize or overdub vocals on the chorus, which gives it some added depth. After being pulled up so high from the first song the energy changes quite significantly when you listen to “Versions.” The song starts out sparse with vocals and guitar and eventually gains percussion and strings.This was a really solid song. Multiple things stood out to me. I thought the way they played the percussive parts were inventive. It sounded like someone was tapping out the rhythms on pot and barrels or something.They also did a standup job with the background vocals as they seeped nicely into the strum of the acoustic guitar. While Threads and Vowels aren’t quite at the level of Fleet Foxes background vocals at this point it showed that these guys could sing.
“Mountain Air” is almost like an interlude as it lasts under two minutes and is rather sparse. That being said it's an upbeat little number that fits in nicely before the last two songs. “Northwest Territories” felt the most contemporary to me. Maybe it was the palm muting of just the chord progressions. While not my favorite song on the album it had its moments. The album closes with the nostalgic, heartfelt “San Francisco.” This is where the band shines. As cascading strings envelope you the song feels like a southern revival that heads towards a triumphant ending.
Although I really enjoyed listening to this album it was still not without its faults. I felt some of the vocal overdubbing was a bit much for example on the song “Versions.” If you listen to this one on a really nice system it sounds like the overdubs raise the vocal level about a db and add too much extra stereo width. It was a bit distracting and took me out of the song. But these few things aside it was a pleasure listening to this album. I'm anticipating that their future work will be something that I will thoroughly enjoy.
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