Yesway – Album Review

San Francisco’s Yesway is the creation of best friends Emily Ritz and Kacey Johansing. Kacey, in addition to a budding solo career following the release of her Grand Ghosts LP last year, has lent her talents to projects such as Geographer while Emily is an active member of the band DRMS.

Four years ago, the two began playing music together in the experimental folk ensemble Honeycomb which initiated their path toward growing and weaving their creative song writing and soulful expression into a power duo.

Their voices literally melt together and their performances are intimate yet expansive. Although their instrumentation is centered around vocal harmonies and two guitars, many of their songs are in odd time signatures and do not follow a traditional song form. The results on the upcoming Yesway LP (out now) are songs that are truly celestial, shapeshifting across different moods that match their creative styles.

There isn’t a bad song on the new Yesway record and that’s a massive statement in itself. The whole album is blissful, creative and entrancing. Their harmonies are outstanding allowing you to fully drift into their musical world. They sound like angels singing. A good way to describe Yesway are to think of First Aid Kit with softer voices and a much more dynamic and creative approach. This isn’t your standard folk album.

Whoacean starts the album off which its melodic yet repetitive guitar riff which is joined rather spontaneously by the girls’ vocals, vocals that repeat “Ah who who, ah who who”. The vocals are scattered, complimentary and peaceful. It’s an experimental track to start a record with but it works in its entirety.

Let Go introduces the girls’ ability to write meaningful and captivating lyrics. While Whoacean is about musical arrangements and sporadic harmonies, Let Go has meaning. It starts, “Take position/Because there’s no no no no no guessing/Take cover under me/Because you don’t know who owns the body/Then let go…” with the second verse, “Choose your your your your your weapon/Because there’s no guessing/Take control over me/Because you don’t know who owns your body/Then let go…” truly putting the idea of this song forward. It’s a song about being vulnerable, about needing someone to help you and protect you so you can let go of some of that angst and frustration – so it’s not all on your shoulders. It’s a beautiful song – this is the only way to describe it.

Yesway’s newest single Howlin’ Face features on the album. This song has a very natural feel to it. The lyrics refer to nature, “If the howling dog should cry out/Quake is coming/Quake is coming…But oh how my body howls/The tallest trees in sight fall down…When the darkness seeks out the light/I won’t fight it…” Howlin’ Face seems to explore the idea of nature and how its many animals and ecosystems interact with each other and continue constantly. Howlin’ Face could perhaps be trying to get us to recognise how we’re also a part of this natural world, “How my body howls/The tallest trees in sight fall down…” It’s another outstanding track on this outstanding album.

Sun Through Feathers introduces a jazzy feel to this album. The harmonies are a little like The Puppini Sisters – uplifting and cheeky. The lyrics, “I saw the sun through feathers…I saw the leaves back on the trees…” again creates this idea of being free and in sync with nature. This song conjures up images of hazy summer evenings in gorgeous green fields, starring at the wonder of the sky, the birds, the flowers.

The end of the album see Heart Does Not Lie, Beat Obedient and Winter Willing are add something to the record before its close. Heart Does Not Lie sees the girls sing in a lower key creating a slightly more sombre tone which goes hand in hand with the lyrics and the dramatic, crashing drums. This is the most similar sounding song to First Aid Kit. Beat Obedient sees those peaceful harmonies sneak straight back in allowing the listener to once again lose themselve in Yesway’s musical world. Winter Willing ends the album with an upbeat track full of seasonal imagery. The guitar riffs compliment each other and feel bouncy and bright. The lyrics, “October…let the colours bury me/Summer feeling faded oh so fast/Anticipating what winter demands…We walk silent/As the trees get undressed/They reveal to us nothing hides nothing lasts…” may seems solemn but in fact with the music, they seem to hold another meaning. Winter isn’t seen as the cold, depressing month here, it’s seen as the transition period. The music and the harmonies help to keep those images of fading summer evenings fresh – you could say this song is more a celebration of a lovely summer rather than a moan about the winter weather.

Yesway have produced an utterly mind blowing album. As said, there isn’t a track on the record that lowers the standard – every track is a highlight. This is a must have album for 2014 without a doubt. Yesway’s new album is out now.

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