Currently, in the midst of a prime spot as Coldplay’s West Coast opening act, the star power of sisters’ Allison and Catherine Pierce seems to be taking an upward swing. In a career that began back in 2000, with a low-key collection of pleasantly appealing coffee house folksongs, the duo’s musical palette has expanded into a more forceful and radio-friendly mélange, thus now popping up frequently on primetime dramas and television commercials. The pairing with Coldplay is an appropriate one as the Pierces’ musical stylings correspond nicely to Chris Martin & Co.: pleasantly swirling mid-tempo jangles and earnest ballads that like the aforementioned dramatic TV series’, nicely pass the time, but fail to leave a long-lasting impression. At times, one wishes that both of these artists would get a bit angrier and put some much needed punch into their performances. Their song catalogs could certainly benefit from some added aggression.
The Pierces have gained widespread popularity in Britain, and are fittingly enough working with only a UK label imprint. Released nearly a year ago overseas, their latest album, You & I, eschews much of the singer-songwriter fare that populated earlier recordings and instead embraces the big production values that can propel a group out of the shadows and onto television and larger venues. The music is pleasant enough and its melodic nature elegantly frames Allison’s and Catherine’s beautiful voices. There’s no doubt the two can sing. Check out the lilting notes of album opener, “The Good Samaritan”, and the almost gospel-like pleas of “You’ll Be Mine” as prime evidence. The problem lies in the big soundscape. They seem to be aiming for the VH-1 “You Oughta Know” series with this album, which is understandable from an artists’ point of view, but sometimes can take away from what someone does best.
A more stripped down approach may have suited them better and given more attention to the group’s stronger suits, which listeners must wait for the album’s conclusion to enjoy. Here, the final three tracks serve as a fitting showcase to the band’s forte. “I Put Your Records On” is an aching acoustic strum that tells a simple story with just guitars and voices. There are a few extra bells and whistles, but the arrangement takes the attention off of the production and puts it square on the gorgeous lullaby of a song. It’s a welcome sound that took a bit too long to get to. The pace then picks up with the raucous harmonizing of “Glorious” and “Drag You Down”, a well crafted, alt-rock, cautionary tale that makes the best use of the busy arrangements that clutter the rest of You and I.
The Pierces have the talent, charisma, and drive to become big players in the music world. Their European success has already proven their worth and value. Hopefully, though, the scale can be muted a bit more on future releases and the songs can be given a little more room to breathe. Their talent should be able to stand on its own.
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// Notes from the Road
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