Album Review: Strangerwolf – Self titled
If you are a loyal reader of EarToTheGround Music, just settle right in to wherever you’re sitting, because you’re going to love Strangerwolf. An emerging artist, folk duo, with absolutely gorgeous harmonies and vocals. They remind me of a combination of Penny and Sparrow mixed with Water Liars. They have just the right amount of dark, brooding melancholy to keep me interested. But the light and life that emerges from the harmonies keeps me from just turning everything in the room dark. It’s a fantastic entry into the music scene by two fantastically talented artists.
The line “our lies are never quite as white as we recall” is just about all you need to know about Strangerwolf. They come out swinging. “It’s not about you…it was written by a ghost.” It’s a captivating little song that, if it stood alone, would probably be baffling. But for those who “have ears to hear,” having listened to the rest of the album, there are some evident Truths here. This album, it seems, was written by a Ghost. Chills!
“Sheetrock” also has some deep, captivating lyrics. But the sonic structure of “Sheetrock” is actually more interesting to me than the lyrics. The harmonies are eerie in all the right ways. But more than that, the meandering style on the acoustic guitar helps the dissonant sounds really “pop.” When the full band joins in (complete with some kind of really gnarly effect on the electric guitar), the whole sound feels like West Coast rock attitude.
The song “Beyond the Shade” feels like the kind of song you might expect on a folk and acoustic site. All of the elements of a classic song are there. The harmonies are bright, the songwriting is solid, and the lyrics really pull you in. It sounds like – without much change – it could be remixed for a pop country act. I really like this version, though, with a moderate production structure around it, allowing the leading brothers, Rick and Ryan Kennedy to really shine.
The featured track for the album is “Torch,” a song that really does describe the band’s sound nicely. It’s a duet, but also packs a powerful punch with some deeper musical involvement. The core is there and you can tell they’d be fine performing the song without any of the extra performance elements. It’s a song, too, that gets you thinking about self definitions and personal identities in ways that only good old fashioned alt rock music really can.
“Made to Love” is an exceptional song. It is full of religious imagery, including discussing our relationship as humans to sin and to God. It’s ultimately about finding the proper way to love our brothers and sisters. I really appreciate that it expresses such deep truths in a way that doesn’t feel like your average Sunday morning worship band. It engages the depth of human experience with a musical simplicity and beauty that I truly enjoy.
Shhh… just stop everything and listen to the opening harmonies on “Shapeshifter.” Isn’t that lucious? The harmonies are absolutely spectacular on this one. The heavy minor chords and brooding feel to the song get me every time. Even without the involvement of the rest of the band, the feeling that the two brothers can create is pretty phenomenal. There’s a high lonesome feel to it that is reminiscent of old country, while there’s a fresh rock crispness on it that feels really raw in all the right ways. This is a powerful song and the class of a really good album.
“Our Bullets are Words” is an intriguing song with characteristic great harmonies, but also a message that will really make you stop and think. “It’s time we lay our weapons down.” I really like the push to treat one another with grace. The final track “Fear” shifts the album just a bit. It features massive layered vocals at the beginning. There’s even an organ. But it all comes together nicely with a feeling of transcendence. It feels like a choir followed by a really cool driving rock anthem.
This is a solid album with a lot of killer harmonies. It’s clear that these talented artists spent a considerable amount of time both in designing music that sounded good, but also lyrics that have conviction and meaning laced throughout them. I definitely recommend the album and look forward to listening to the band as the continue to develop over the years.