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RVA Bandcamp Of The Week: New Faces by Golden Ours

New Faces – Golden Ours

It takes exactly one minute of listening to Golden Ours to realize Kia Cavallaro is a unique musician. Her sweet and warbly voice, her tinged timbre and phrasing, the simple yet recondite lyrics; it’s clear that her approach to music is new, drawing significantly from contemporaries and legends while forging her own path with subtle instrumentation and fraying recording techniques.

But while it only takes a minute to learn this, it takes infinitely longer to learn just what Cavallaro is, something tauntingly left unanswered in her new record, New Faces.

The music of Golden Ours is unassuming and disarming at times, as it floats in with melodies taught by a grandparent on a front porch (“Sweet Music“) and presents them in a setting even more intimate than that porch (“Fancy Free“). There’s a loose adventure to the songs too, with simple backing vocals that appear from out of nowhere (“I’ll Find A Way“) and brass instruments that wander into songs like a musician discovering a backyard performance while out for a walk (“Crazy As A Loon“). There are plenty of moments that draw parallels to artists like Kitty Wells and Angel Olsen, but Cavallaro doesn’t stay too long, constantly shifting around to the next decisive thought or dissonant bridge.

While Cavallaro’s lyrics and singing are compelling, it’s the production that helps make New Faces soar as each song is packed with intriguing choices that make them hauntingly unforgettable. It starts with the title track opening the record as it fractures a simple melody and structure with delayed backing vocals, a subtle trick more commonly heard in the music of modern guitar pioneers like Omar Rodríguez-López, but not unheard of vocally.

For example, Sun Kil Moon used this on the climax of the 2014 song “Ben’s My Friend” to convey a mental breakdown, and the effect seems to be similar here with Cavallaro masking the themes of opportunity and rebirth with shades of doubt and unrest. Of course, the lo-fi feel of the music helps enhance the roots foundation, but slowly filling in the background on songs like “I’ll Find A Way” strengthens the music, letting the listener know these are songs strong in any context, such as is the case with New Faces‘ standout track, “Better Me.”

“Better Me” serves as New Faces‘ strongest track for several reasons, starting briefly with the Victoria Williams-esque flourish that opens the song and instantly sets it apart from the rest of the record. Sparse strumming portrays a feeling of tragedy, which the lyrics match at first before pushing the song in a more hopeful and curative direction. There’s a quiet struggle between the music and lyrics in this regard with each jockeying for control of the song’s message, before the inspiring words take control in the playful, yet declarative outro. With just a faint background supporting Cavallaro’s voice and guitar, it’s a simple song, but one that feels meticulously crafted and expertly executed, thus yielding the record’s most striking moment.

Deeper meaning like this can be extracted from all of New Faces‘ nine tracks, including the instrumental closer “Cacophony,” a haunting composition that plays out like a musical tumbleweed. And perhaps Cavallaro is a tumbleweed herself, constantly moving and constantly changing, and New Faces is the register of her wispy journey within the world of folk. We could catch it and find out what it is made of, but it’s clear the wind of inspiration gives it body and character so the best method is to let it float unobstructed as we follow behind the incongruous, yet glorious route of folk exploration.

New Faces is out now on Bandcamp, and the album release show takes place Thursday, June 1st at Flora where you can catch Golden Ours in all their wispy glory, alongside Saw Black and Kenneka Cook. Admission is free with the show starting at 9:30 PM.