It’s no surprise that the musical pairing of a visual artist and a metal guitarist winds up being as dramatic as Family Band. Vocalist Kim Krans and husband Johnny Ollsin take on the gothier side of dreamy folk on their debut album, Grace & Lies, wrapping shivery shadows of simple, heavy music up with bleak, chilly vocals. Bassist/lap steel guitarist Scott Hirsch fleshes out the pair’s haunted pop, but the icy power of Family Band lies in the empty spaces that pervade the album’s nine songs.
The low whirring that opens the album on “Night Song” is like the projector kicking on for the start of some existential horror film, and following that with Ollsin’s icicle-plinking guitar line doesn’t assuage any fears. The bassy piano rumbles and slow, clattering percussion set an eerie scene, and Krans’ downcast crooning completes the dark world. “This house is dark/ nothing moves inside,” she moans, the song building like some sort of evil fog, forming one of the most affecting tracks in recent memory.
Not everything is terror, though, and on “Moonbeams”, Family Band hits upon a Sharon Van Etten-esque ballad, the raw emotion palpable, distinct, yet not cloying. The easy guitar and wavering synths mellow to the point of drifting, while Krans’ repeated demand that “I gotta hear your wondering sound” further pushes the softness. Her voice is stark and strong, but the uncertainty wallows in a somber yearning.
The space between the arch-picked guitar lines at the opening of “Ride” further let Krans’ voice shine, as if we can see the cold breath escaping along with her rich, well-deep vocals. The empirically loose bass rumbles are masterfully tense, and the splashes of cymbals as the song grows in intensity fill the early gaps. But they return, as they tend to do on the entirety of Grace & Lies. Powerful growth propels the music on Family Band’s debut album, yet they always seem to find themselves returning to a cloudy depth, drenched in deep thought and dark notions.
Essential Tracks: “Night Song”, “Ride”