Folly and the Hunter’s debut LP, Residents, sounds like a Fairy Tale.
Residents opens with a prologue—soft keys and ethereal vocals—the type of pallet you’d expect from the hand-drawn artwork reminiscent of early A.A. Milne. The way the album crescendos into a series of rhythmic guitar strums and crashing cymbals by track two, “Leaving Town”, it has a through the looking glass affect. “Those damn rapids will take you far,” Nick Vallee sings on banjo heavy track three, “Cost.” Residents is the type of album that promises to take you on a journey.
Folly & the Hunter is the project of three multi-instrumentalists from Montreal: Nick Vallee, Lauri-A Torres, and Christopher Fox—a surprise considering the group’s large instrumentation. From swollen strings to melancholy organs, Residents boasts a diverse array of sounds. Another surprise: Residents is an entirely independent effort, financed, produced, and recorded by the trio and a handful of local guests—Brad Barr and Sarah Page. The result is surprisingly mature and impressively polished. A combination of folk-pop ballads and ambient interludes—often highlighted by the group’s three way harmonies—Residents is a well thought out debut. Although perhaps that isn’t surprising, as the group list DIY guru Justin Vernon, as a major influence upon the project.
Other influences are lived up to as well: Seven Swans era Sufjan Stevens can be heard on misleadingly sunny “Raising the Dead” and “Snowfields.” I’ve mentioned in the past that the folk genre can be both rewarding and dangerous—it’s a popular niche, but a path well-trodden. It takes subtle deviations that make a band stand out. And for Folly & the Hunter, those subtleties can be found in the layered instrumentation. Spiraling harmonics add depth to what could easily devolve into simplistic strum and sings. The almost spooky screech of minor-scale slide-guitar rescues album late-comer “Revolution Drums” from what could be otherwise cut-and-paste Americana.
If I had to give a single criticism, it would be the length of Residents. Although 47 minutes is nowhere near ground breaking, there are places where the 13 tracks flow together. In revisiting the album, it was tough to recall exactly where my favorite songs were nestled. It takes a few listens to learn just how to navigate the set—something not always granted to a band’s first release. That said, this cohesion is most likely the result of a well thought out musical narrative—a casualty I’m willing to accept. With next to no notable lagging points, a couple revisits are far from taxing. In a high-speed era where first impressions are everything, Residents is a debut that Folly & the Hunter should be proud of.
Top Tracks: “Cost”;“Folly”; “Snowfields”
Rating: Hunting Call (excellent) + *swoop*