The folk space has become pretty crowded now (especially female-fronted ones; think Slow Club, The Staves, One Little Plane, Tennis etc) and with a wealth of eye-catching debut albums this year, it might have been difficult for the three-piece (Rebecca Hawley, Emily Lansley and Lucy Mercer) from Liverpool to make a lasting impression. But they have!
Their sound is based on lo-fi, psychedelic folk foundations with elements of krautrock and electronica. But while the sound might not be vastly different to other folk artists at the moment falling somewhere in between Alt-J and fellow Liverpool-based band All We Are; the LP is diverse, charming and infinitely listenable.
‘Garden’ might not be what most artists and producers would choose to open the album, it’s wonderfully psychedelic and impressionistic but certainly isn’t the most accessible track. However, listeners who might be having trouble getting into the album should be fulfilled by the single ‘Shut Eye’ because the abundant use of alliterations and assonance makes for an amiable vocal soundtrack.
But this is where you get thrown off. While the two openers are fun and playful with enticing harmonies and charming melodies, ‘Rearrange’ suddenly offers a tone that is slightly darker and more serious. Along with ‘White Lies’, it offers a change of pace that makes the playfulness of subsequent tracks appear less weathered. In fact, by the time you come back to the twangy and tambourine-layered sound of ‘Genevieve’, you realised you missed the sprightliness of the openers.
I’m not sure Stealing Sheep will make much of a commercial impact – although I’m pretty sure Heavenly Records are very happy to have signed them – which is a massive shame because Stealing Sheep are expressive, dynamic and have potential to progress their sound even further. They know how to make easy-listening tunes like ‘Shut Eye’ but are equally adept at producing something more brooding, moody and considered. Just listen to the slow-burning kaleidoscope that is ‘Bear Tracks’.
Oh and where do they fit in amongst the profusion of folk bands and 2012 albums? Definitely in the upper echelons. And they’re supporting Alt-J in Brighton this weekend, probably one of the best support acts you could ask for.
N.B. The above stream is missing close track ‘Bear Tracks’. Mr. Youtube should help you though.