Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Steps of Doe Present Rootsy Americana Style on Debut Album


Born from familiar circumstances, the duo met while studying abroad in Cambridge, and after some musical experimentation both returned home to Berkeley with a distinct aspiration to perform together. After several practices they took to the street corners of their town to play for the locals, garnering enough attention to earn as much as thirty dollars in an evening, which, back then, was a big pay off as far as they were concerned. Over the next few years Keena Batti and Molly Falck spent time defining their sound, and with the help of good friends Devon Geyer (acting as Producer) and Burleigh Drummond, they came into their own with a full band style replete with lush harmonies and electrified banjo, dulcimer and mandolin. While honing their craft they also dedicated time to the stage, performing every Thursday night at the Old Place in Los Angeles’ Agoura Hills neighborhood, debuting the songs they eventually wove together to create “On Returning.” The title, which speaks to the way they began their musical relationship upon returning home from studying abroad, also touches on the theme of perpetually “returning” to memories, fantasies, and delusions within relationships. An iconic 70’s-style dominates their debut, not surprising when their influences include classic bands like Led Zepplin and Fleetwood Mac, to even more recent styles like those of Sufjan Stevens and Elliot Smith. One thing is certain, with a sound that ranges from cheerily obsessive to deeply reflective and forlorn, Steps of Doe is a band with something to say, and listeners will be clamoring to hear it. 

The opening track, “Love So Fine,” introduces the album in a subtle way that focuses primarily on the storytelling aspect of their style. Languid vocals coax an otherworldly feel as interlocking voices give breath to a poetic exploration of lost love. Their harmonies waver between the deep, bellowing rhythm, creating a sound that blooms into something unexpected and entirely enjoyable. Their first single, “Beneath the Shadow of the King,” received critical acclaim from the moment it was released. With comparisons to bands like First Aid Kit, this song has cemented their place on the landscape of Americana music. A deeply eerie reverb sits atop their cohesive harmonies, exploring the disillusionment that comes with idealistic relationship expectations. It's a song so jaunty and earnest that the undercurrent of disappointment, wrapped up in flute and melody, is hardly recognizable. A lush, symphonic feeling comes alive on “Chasing Ghosts,” a track that ponders the uncertainty of personal demons. This gloomy pop song is an honest and dramatic lyrical expression with a gothic feel enhanced by banjo and harpsichord. On “Walker,” the tone changes when the music veers away from the 1970’s and begins to lean towards 1960’s pop. It's a chirpier moment on an album that spends so much of its time exploring desperation. "Walker," a track that shifts gears into a gentle bounce, brings a balance with its bright, engaging hopefulness. An ascending mandolin lick and two-part vocal harmony convey a sense of optimism. A subtle bluegrass influence propels “Bring Me Home” with a droning banjo and acoustic guitar driving the song. ”Bring Me Home” builds to a grand finale encouraged by the big, chewy chorus, which, atop a bumpy bass-line, allows even the most melancholy of moments to appear upbeat. Even as the lyrics beg to begin walking the long road home, it’s clear that Steps of Doe have enjoyed the journey itself. 

“On Returning” is a breakout album that allows Steps of Doe to present their own gloomy, but unwaveringly catchy brand of Americana Rock.

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