Radical Face – The Family Tree: The Branches


This is the second of a three-volume concept album series by Radical Face, whose power bill is addressed to Ben Cooper. The series may be thought of as the saga of a fictitious (though based on meticulous historical research) family in the 19th century. Adding to the flavour is Radical Face’s exclusive use of instruments from the era.

One minor beef: it would have been great to write songs in the style of that era to hammer the concept home. I know it’s all just music, but this sounds for all the world like the indie-folkie release from late 2013 that it is—handclaps, humming vocal harmonies, the whole bit. For all the work of creating a genealogy and narrative, extending the attention to historical detail just seems like the logical thing to do. Oh well, not my record. All the same, it has some very strong songs and the vocal work would never make your grandmother leave the room. “Summer Skeletons” is a highlight, ambling its way down a winding trail on the back of some crisp cello work. There are some brief, “old” sounding samples sprinkled throughout, mostly between the songs—but the simulated field recordings are positively enchanting at the opening of “The Gilded Hand,” which gradually reveals itself to be arguably the most adventurous song of the bunch.

Bad Religion used to credit members with “oozin’ aahs” for their background vocals. Well, Radical Face obviously loves him some “aah oozers” because nearly every song on The Branches includes those “aaaaah” vocals—enough that I feel it needs to be mentioned. If wooohhs and aaaaahhs get on your nerves, this album will drain you in a hurry. If you like literate and poetic historical fiction, though, the words to these songs should offer enough to make you stick it out. (Nettwerk, radicalface.com) Daniel Emberg

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