Monday, September 15, 2014

The Staves are back, and they've brought Bon Iver with them

Last Christmas, after The Staves' triumphant, rapturous gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, Emily Stavely-Taylor told me two years of touring the band's debut album, Dead & Born & Grown, had taken its toll. "Playing those songs is like having sex with someone you've fallen out of love with."

So, after wrapping up that show, the band decamped to Wisconsin to dream up the magic all over again. Sitting at the mixing desk was folk-pop troubador Justin Vernon - who they'd befriended while on tour with Bon Iver. Here is the proof, lest you think this is all an elaborate ruse.

The first fruits of their collaboration is an EP called Blood I Bled, the title track of which appeared online today. Vernon upends a whole bag of tricks over the sisters' pin-point harmonies: Strings, handclaps, a brass section and, naturally, a banjo. But crucially, he does nothing to dilute the band's spine-tingling vocals.

In ambition and structure, it sounds like Eagle Song, the billowy, polyharmonic closing track from their debut record, but now it has added oomph. Or, at least, as much oomph as a mournful mid-tempo folk ballad can muster.

Simply beautiful.

You can pre-order the Blood I Bled EP on iTunes. And to pass the time until the 28th of October, when it'll appear in your library like a less spectacularly-unwelcome U2 album, here's a picture of Emily, Jessica and Camilla when they were little 'uns. Awww, bless.

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