The Ophelias - Almost - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Ophelias - Almost

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-07-13
The Ophelias - Almost
The Ophelias - Almost

This record has the butterfly without the iron.

And that’s a good thing. So, hey nonny nonny (more about Shakespeare later), and there’s nary a guitar solo to be found in these grooves. But there’s a wonderful quirky folk-rock that doesn’t need anything heavy to create a rather deep depth of clever music. Oh, but there’s Spencer Peppet’s vocal delivery, which (thankfully), my GPS located on the corner of casual indifference and wry wisdom. There is (again thankfully) the completely absent testosterone and the extremely melodic rhythm section of Grace Weir and Micaela Adams. And all the guitar solo stuff is pretty much covered by the (always perfect everywhere) violin and piano playing of Andrea Gutmann-Fuentes.

Back to butterflies: my new English setter pup, Willamena, has discovered monarchs in our backyard. I had pretty much taken all the Lepidoptera for granted, but then, Willa chased, jumped, and even pointed, in perfect setter form, at one that fluttered in the afternoon sun.

This music is like watching those butterflies flit all over the various air currents that are, just like music itself, invisible to the naked eye. Trust me: Those butterflies were all over the place--this way, that way, up, and down--as they rode the breeze.

And this album, like those butterflies, just bounces all over those airwaves, and it does so is such a great melodic manner.

The first tune, “Fog,” begins with weird voices and then settles into a quiet groove. The vocals are lovely, yet deep with irony. That lead violin creates a tension that drives the band.

But then “General Electric” delivers the big hit. And I’m not talking about the Top 40.  No, the lyrics tell of a lover’s “canon” that “misfires” (no metaphor there!); the woman has “dark circles under my eyes” while saying “I control nothing,” and she wants to be “what you fantasize.” This lyric, especially with its off-hand delivery, knows way too much. We are well beyond mere butterflies in the backyard.

Remember that sweet Ophelia, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, goes mad and delivers all those flowers. It’s a really famous scene. You know, she gives fennel, columbines, rue, daisies, and whatever else was in the garden. And sweet Ophelia sings her mad song. I’ve watched countless women sing that disheveled tune (with an alack or two to emphasize the loss of innocence); and although this record has nothing to do with Hamlet per se, this song “General Electric” kindled the memory of that act, that scene, and those deep accusatory words.

And then there’s more: “Lover’s Creep” has odd voices, beautiful harmonies and more of that violin. And a character in the song gets “stung by a talented wasp.” That’s a nice line.  

“Night Signs” has an acoustic soul; it wanders a bit, but then the vocal lays its royal flush melody and clears the betting table with an ironic wink. Truly, it’s almost a signature song for the band.  

By the way, my Willamena is equally fond of chasing wasps, who may or may not be clever (but she certainly is not). That isn’t a good thing for an English setter pup to do.

That said, “O Command” gets serious in a big acoustic spacey way. This one is slow and drips with an incessant beat.  And speaking of space, “Lunar Rover” is folk music with big violin, odd percussion, and more of the almost too sincere (and wise beyond the years to be believed at face value) vocal delivery.

“Bird” is an absolutely beautiful folk song. And “House” is a wonderfully clever folk song. I’m reminded of The Roches’ “Hammond Song.” Fans of Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy will certainly like this album; although in fairness, The Ophelias have a much more complex pop sound and are quirky in a much darker way.

By the way, (if it’s all right for Hamlet to have an encore), Shakespeare critic Samantha Sarafin writes of sweet Ophelia’s mad song that “she is free to grasp, free to sing, free to confront authority…and free to make her own decisions about love and life.” I may be overly literary, but I think the same could be said about these Ophelias and their music on this record.

The final two songs complete the thirty-minute album. “Zero” zig-zags its grooves, like the carved old pillars in Durham Cathedral, while “Moon Like Sour Candy” is straightforward and almost languid in its confession about “conversations heading south,” “wearing corduroy for four days straight,” and “you can only like me when I’m drunk.” And the bass, drums, and violin pulse the tune to a somewhat hopeful conclusion.

So, sweet Ophelia sings her mad song. And the monarch butterflies flutter in my backyard breeze, always Almost within Willa’s puppy reach. That’s a good thing. And this music also dips and soars; it sings madly; and it, too, flutters in the wind-blown (and both iron and In-A-Gadda -Da- Vida free) grooves of a really nice bit of clever folk-rock music. And that’s a good thing, too.

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