When he launches into the delicate falsetto refrain of “Stars Go Down,” Steve Haley sounds positively Harvest-era Neil Young, but Halifax troubadours Banded Stilts only take the twang so far.
Little Village is the band’s full-length follow-up to their 2011 EP By the Back Stair, a collection of songs that sound more like snatches of stories and conversations put to a sombre, alt-folk rhythm. The new album might be less carefree than their earlier release, but it’s also more layered and concentrated, as if they took the rustic pulse of homegrown Canadian groups All The Wiles or Great Lake Swimmers and jilted that straightforward core every so often with the lofty flourishes of Fleet Foxes.
The usual arsenal of East Coast folk elements are here at Banded Stilt’s disposal – the guitars, violin, banjo, and a sense of character and story – but there are enough turns of phrases and mellow song structures to set this group apart from what you’d expect of a crowd of folk musicians growing up next to the ocean.
Little Village opens with a lonely piano melody, a glimpse of vulnerability that’s quickly forgotten when the acoustic guitar starts strumming and the horns start in the background. Still, it’s a fitting reminder of what’s just beneath the surface of the whole record. The indie production floats you somewhere away from the simple seaside town on the album’s black and white cover, but the ripples you feel are from the simple lives of those simple people that live in that simple town. Simple as in human: capable of love, capable of loneliness, and capable of beauty.
The album is officially being released on Oct. 8, but you can preview the tracks at Bandedstilts.bandcamp.com – be sure to check out “Stars Go Down,” the bittersweet moving-on of “The End of February,” and the cool accordion melodic line that carries “The Squid and the Ghost Town.”
Or, if you’re real smitten, hear the songs live and up close when Banded Stilts make a stop downtown at the Capital this Thursday evening, converging with British Columbia native Pat LePoidevin (whose fifth release, American Fiction, is almost as new as Banded Stilts’) and local singer-songwriter Josh Bravener. Whether Fredericton is home or just the little village you happen to have found yourself in, there’s a song there worth singing.