The End of America – Steep Bay
Record Label: Forest Park Recordings
Release Date: October 26, 2010
New York’s The End of America is the latest folk collective to hole themselves up in a cabin and emerge with an album. This one’s titled Steep Bay, named after a bay in the Adirondack Mountains where they recorded it. If you’re obsessed with anything and everything Americana like I am, that tidbit alone should be enough to make you swoon.
How is it?
All swooning aside, Steep Bay is a bit of a mixed bag. The album sticks, for the most part, to typical acoustic folk, occasionally Sufjan-ifying things by twanging the banjo. The first five tracks are all fairly standard songs, the standout perhaps being “All, Nothing” with its chorus yearning from the soul: “I wanna read, I wanna teach, I wanna slip through life unseen, I wanna paint the scenes of trees.” But on “Diving Rock” and “Steep Bay,” they prove they recorded this in the cabin by incorporating sounds from their time up there; the latter has a clip of them jumping into, I assume, the waters of Steep Bay before an autumn-y guitar line sets in, and the former makes use of the sound of pouring rain.
This is where the album weakens a little, though. The unconventional sounds are interesting and unique, but there’s not much else that separates Steep Bay from the sea of aspiring folk tunes tiding the markets. Some will probably find the songs somewhat unmemorable, and I find myself agreeing to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong here – I firmly believe I’ll be unable to resist spinning this album come summer. The melodies are too wistful and the guitar tones too toasty to pass up on. But part of me still wishes the music struck with more polarity, be it joy or pain, so it could really make a dent on the listener. We’ll see if they take that route in the future, but for now, Steep Bay wouldn’t make a bad soundtrack to a lively campfire.