Wooly and the Mammoth – at bay

Anthemic folk music has almost become a cliché in the 21st century music landscape, but please DO NOT take these Brooklyn folk rockers lightly. They have a delightful full sound that is well worth your time and attention. From strings to harmonies (and even handclaps) this is the kind of music that gets you singing along. Although it released in February, it is definitely a fitting summer album.

Their sound isn’t easily categorized, nor do they sound like any one band. They’ve got overtones of alt rock from the 90s, but a healthy dose of more mega-popular flavors like U2. There’s a sense that this band could really rock out a huge venue or a house show with equal gusto. The layered male-female harmonies work in the magnified context of the album recording, but seems as though it could be easily stripped down around a simple acoustic guitar strumming chords beneath intimate vocal blending. That’s a good quality in a song, let alone a whole album.

As much as I like the opening “We are Love,” I think the second track is the more powerful first impression of this fantastic band. “Fallen Down” has elements of early 2000s alternative rock mixed into the distinctly 21st century indie folk flavor. The lyrics, albeit meandering, seem to couch a distinctive singing accent. At the end of the song, it’s ultimately about being an outsider. So hipster. It’s endearing and wonderful in all the right ways.

“Troubles from long ago” is a remarkable story about a tumultuous relationship.

Give in to your temptations 

It ain’t right to think about 
What all it means 
If you give it up I’ll let you in 
But you mustn’t ask for more 

These are their troubles from so long ago 
I said, these are their troubles from so long ago”

What makes this song brings a full package. Traditional country instrumentation and, honestly, a traditional country storyline in a decidedly non-country delivery. It’s the kind of song that words cannot fully describe, despite my best efforts. It’s a must listen.

The relatively whimsical “The Rain Will Come” is beautiful, but doesn’t totally feel like the rest of the songs on the album. From the start it seems like something from an Ingrid Michaelson album more than Wooly and the Mammoth, but honestly I’ll say it really works. The harmonies are cute and really well written. The production and instrumentation on this song are of highest quality. It seems tailor made for a soundtrack. The repetitive lyric “the rain will come and wash it all away” is not the standard metaphor of rain… in fact, this rain seems to be cleansing. Refreshing, I dare say.

“Premonitions of War” is probably the most indicative song of the band overall. That is to say, it’s the full production and extremely well accomplished. The violin, in particular, makes this song really work. There’s a beautiful rhythm to the song structure that seems conducive to singing “in the round.” This is a different kind of party music, but I’d sure love a group of friends who would want to sing this type of music. Incredible. The lyrics are about time and distance, seemingly about a sailor off at sea, but are so well sung that, frankly they could be singing the alphabet and this would still be a good song.

The song concludes with “Carry On,” utilizing a subtle electric guitar at the beginning to usher listeners down a sonic pathway into a much softer and introspective song. When the vocal harmonies come in on the left channel, the listener feels instantly comforted. There are few songs that can generate such emotion in so few sounds, but this song does it. As the full band fills the track, there’s a real resolution to the journey presented at the start of the track. The final lyric of the album, fittingly, is “won’t you carry us on home.” As a matter of fact, I believe I will carry this album on home.

This is one of those baffling bands that I can’t believe I even get the chance to write about. How are they not already huge stars? The talent just drips from their work. It’s evident that they’ve put time into both lyrics and music to create something exquisite. I really hope these guys get into a good crowd and that all you CRAZY KIDS OUT THERE will buy this album. Go to these shows. I bet they are a riot. In fact, I’m hoping to see them soon.

In case you missed my subtle conclusion… buy this album. Right now.





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