There will always be room every once in a while for an album of gentle folk tunes. Not tunes that are necessarily so sterile and safe that they become boring after a few minutes. Rather, the tunes should be something like Dark For Dark’s Warboats: gentle, but with memorable vocals and subtle-but-powerful backing arrangements.
Dark For Dark is the first time Rebecca Zolkower appears as a frontwoman. Previously she’s been a kickass supporting musician for the likes of Amelia Curran, Jon McKiel and Klarka Weinwurm, but now she’s at the front and centre and shows that she can be a strong presence there too. She delicately commands a handful of instruments while also providing equally delicate vocals.
And let’s also not forget the fantastic vocal harmonies from Jess Lewis and Melanie Stone, who form the core of the band. There’s also some great guest talent including Kris Pope who plays the roots-staple lap steel as well as the multi-talented Corey Isenor.
Despite the album title that may remind of naval warfare, the music itself is peppered with nostalgia and a certain warmth that really categorizes this as a summer album. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the breezy “Little Birds.” It features a lovely dose of Isenor’s ukulele while Zolkower sings about growing up. It’s got a nice little line partway through the song: “Watching you grow in the photographs makes time seem slow.”
“Sweetwater” goes a bit more rootsy with its bits of banjo, and it’s probably got the best few lyrical phrases on the album: “Through the trees, leaves vibrate anxiously/To blow away my dreams and, just for now, shelter me.”
“Around” and “Buildings” both show off the fantastic three-part harmonies that Dark For Dark do so well. The former starts with just Zolkower’s voice, incorporating Lewis and Stone in the second verse. The latter uses the harmonies well in the song’s sort-of chorus.
“Wake Me When It’s Over” manages to be a standout on the album with its gentle tone that disguises the song’s true nature- it sounds very much like a breakup tune. In particular, the song’s quick phrasing in certain spots breaks up the idea that Dark For Dark is only interested in softness.
It ends quite beautifully with “Lullaby” which is possibly one of the most apt song titles in a long time. It’s very likely that it would do well marketed as a lullaby for kids.
Warboats manages to do well with its willingness to be nostalgic and gentle without being overly cutesy or cliché.
Top Tracks: “Around”; “How or Why”; “Wake Me When It’s Over”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)