Seriously, just buy this record.
Everybody says that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover and everybody knows that stereotypes are bullshit and dismissive but everybody still has the nasty tendency to rely on previous experience and social conditioning when sizing up and evaluating something new. The Onion said it best, with a healthy dab of snark: “Stereotypes Are A Real Time-Saver.”
How, you may ask, does personal prejudice play into this record review? On first look, there is a lot to this record that telegraphs twee, self-important and ultimately insufferable hipster pop. Girl and guy-with-guitar duo? Check. Hand-drawn mono-color cover? Check. Promotional photo on their Bandcamp profile showing the duo sharing iPhone earbuds on a New York subway train while, one assumes, they’re riding through Brooklyn? Check, check, check, check, CHECK. On first glance, this album looks like something that is targeted at and made for the moustache styling, wax using, gentleness-as-artifice, shoe-gazing set.
The first 30 seconds of the opening track do nothing to dispel that assumption; simple arpeggiated guitar and female vocals open up with lyrics about emotions, predictions and feeling out of place. With the previously mentioned preconceived notions held firmly in hand, the listener gets a momentary sinking feeling in the pit of one’s stomach – all signs point toward this being the audio equivalent of Greta Gerwig’s character in Frances Ha, with the next thirty-odd minutes barely tolerable at best.
But then something wonderful happens. A second voice joins, hitting tight Simon and Garfunkel harmonies which are shortly followed by subtle, Chelsea Girl-esque strings. The song isn’t what changes, mind you, rather it is the listener’s perception. This isn’t trust-fund twee self-indulgence; this is wonderfully delicate, highly considered, almost-chamber indie pop. Throughout, there are traces of Nico and hints of Dylan but with enough modern touches to make the sound fresh, rather than retro-rehash. Laura & Greg manage to tread that delicate line of honest self-reflection that sits between wide-eyed ingenue hope and broken-hearted worldly exhaustion. There are also little snippets of the organic scattered throughout, an audible count-off here, a slightly out-of-time drum hit there, making it feel really real.
It’s exceedingly hard to pick top tracks from a record like this. “Don’t Let Me,” the album’s shortest cut, is a concentrated nugget of wonderful that features a polyrhythmic ride of intertwining guitar and percussion. “Once Out Loud” has a racing, cut time feel with a lead line that evokes early Jackson Browne. “Undertow” has the instant country flair a lap-steel gives and is a case study in how you don’t have to play loud or fast in order to convey emotional intensity.
Occasionally, even the most jaded listener can find a record that blasts through their calcified personal biases. This is one of those records. Do yourself a favor: pick up this record, put on some headphones, and lie on your living room floor, eyes closed, and listen through this album without any distraction or interruption. You’ll be a better person for it.