erasing clouds

The Harvey Girls, The Wild Farewell

reviewed by dave heaton

For a while every time I listened to The Harvey Girls' album The Wild Farewell I thought it was a different album. Or it was some kind of time machine, or choose-your-own-adventure thing, where if I pressed "play" in a slightly different way I'd get something which sounded completely different: futuristic synth-pop one time, down-home country the next.

Of course it's really none of that, just a 70-plus minute epic, split into two stylistically different halves. Apparently telling the story of someone moving from New York City to rural Kansas, the album joins together sophisticated, atmospheric, electronics-tinged pop music (the New York side) with a rural Americana style of folk music (the Kansas side). Within each side there is still diversity, yet even with all this wild style-switching the album overall somehow retains one general mood.

At the album's start, an opening crescendo sets up the feeling that we're listening to a feature-length narrative, a novel or a Hollywood film. Then with "Wake Your Heart" the music bounces to life, with synth tones perking up mellow, just-waking-up vocals. There's a fresh air feeling, and the album feels very alive. That feeling stays, through an assortment of songs that blend stellar harmonies with a layered, rich mood and a city-like saunter. Several songs have a hip-hop-influenced edge, evoking the urban environment which also making the music even brighter and fresher. Horns blurt, a DJ scratches, rock guitars howl, while ghosts strut up and down alleyways at midnight.

The first half is a vibrant, Technicolor city scene, a hymn to the way the sunset looks between skyscrapers., with tuneful echoes of the Brill Building waves and the Elephant 6 collective also present in the midst. That feeling culminates with "Brooklyn Train," which leads unexpectedly into "Kansas, She Said," with acoustic guitar and similarly memorable melodies helping retain the ghostly atmosphere within a completely different context. It's lazier, more laidback. It's still sunny, still filled with a dizzy sort of awe, but now the backdrop is grain elevators, dust clouds, and open skies.

The music is still moving us, still transporting us, but to somewhere new. "The Word Possibility", the last song is titled, and this album vibrates through and through with a sense of possible, with a hopeful creative feeling and the sense that every place is special for its own reasons, that all geography resonates with its own unique magic.


this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2006 erasing clouds