The word maturity gets thrown around a lot when talking about music and artists in general. I never really had a good grasp of how one could observe an artist “mature” over time. In comparing the sonic differences of West My Friend’s latest album When the Ink Dries, listeners can definitely hear the group’s sound developing and growing.
Those who are new to West My Friend will find WTID is filled with songs of varying tempo, content and mood. The four-piece band from Victoria practically defines the “folk-indie” genre, but also employs jazz and blues influences to accompany the guitar, mandolin, accordion, and bass that dominate their sound. Despite this, listeners will find this album offers a lot more than just those main sounds.
Immediately, cymbal washes and percussion drive the opening title track. An element new to the WMF sound brings a welcome force that pushes the songs in a more clear direction, something that is felt more than anything on many of the other tracks. “The Tattoo that Never Loved Her Anyway” showcases another unique component of the band’s repertoire; a syncopated vocal bridge is a bit odd at first, but warmed up on me as the song continued.
My favourite track off the album, “Missing You,” perfectly encapsulates the maturity of West My Friend. The folk-pop inspired song would not feel out of place on a Sara Bareilles record. This new direction of the band showcases their song writing skills alongside the produced sounds of Victoria mainstay Joby Baker, and arranger Adrian Dolan. Listeners can certainly hear the influence those two creative minds had on the overall sound of the album. The driving claps and four-on-the-floor provide the basis for the cheery brass lines that would get any crowd dancing.
One quip I have about the album in general is the song placement and order. As it stands now, WTID feels more like a collection of pretty songs, rather than a complete album telling a story. The juxtaposition between pop hits like “Missing You,” to the calm and discouraging “Thin Hope” does not add to the flow of the album. By no means does this take away from the beauty in the songs, particularly the latter – I feel as a listener the album could be arranged in such a way to tell a more complete story.
A song that cannot go without mention in any review of this album is “The Cat Lady Song.” This cabaret style epic with full brass and string sections feels like it deserves its own Baz Luhrmann film to accompany it. The song which lyrics discusses the feelings of cats and asks, “What do you do when two cat ladies fall in love?” is a perfect reason why the band has been described as quirky. (They must be cat people…)
Filled with wonderful arrangements, rich harmonies, and full, dense songs, West My Friend’s When the Ink Dries is a welcomed progression from their debut Place. They have transformed their sound from the simplicity of a four-piece to a polished quartet, providing a cacophony of sound that engulfs the listener.
The Tattoo That Loved Her Anyway
West My Friend begins their cross Canada album release tour on March 6th.
The album will be available from the band and on their website at http://www.westmyfriend.com/apps/webstore/
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