PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Elephant Revival: Sands of Now

Haunting and joyous, this is everything good folk music should be.


Elephant Revival

Sands of Now

Label: United Interests
US Release Date: 2015-07-24
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

Colorado folk balladeers Elephant Revival return for a new album, the fifth since their debut. Active since 2006, this band made up of Bonnie Paine, Bridget Law, Dango Rose, Daniel Rodriguez, and Charlie Rose incorporates elements of folk and Americana to craft a uniquely rich, intimately piercing sound. “Shadows Past", the dreamy album opener, mixes melodic picking and soft-spoken menace, launching from banjo-driven folk into a middle eastern fantasy scored with hand drums and Bridget Law’s screaming gypsy fiddle. Switching between modes with a whispered “one, two, three", the quintet evokes mystery, joy, and understated awe. Not bad for three minutes and change.

“Sands of Now", the title track, uses a Celtic melody touched with melancholy to celebrate abundance that is “bursting blue at the seams". The track has a laidback Django Reinhardt energy, and Law’s saucy, inventive playing brings the stars down to “a stone’s throw away". “Drop” revels in blues-flavored instrumentation and mind-bending surrealism. Bonnie Paine’s haunting vocals provide the gossamer thread that holds this track together, and the appreciative live audience on the recording agrees. “Fallout Fields” is lyrical and slow, reveling in whispery vocal harmonies. Like many Elephant Revival tracks, the song builds to an explosive, driving climax and features deftly interwoven playing. “The Garden” explores Eden imagery with a serpent’s “venom spitting riddles", but eschews bombast in favor of subtle, intricate melodies.

“Will Carry On” drifts in with a gentle unaccompanied female voice and meanders along towards acceptance that “we may never be perfect". Embellished with whistling and Law’s countryfied fiddle, the song is a sweet (but not saccharine) ode to contentment. “Spinning” continues the inspirational folk fest, while “Stolen” allows a rare note of lament to pass like La Llorona’s shadow over the otherwise ebullient Sands of Now. “Lost Creek” is whimsical and irreverent, almost abrasive at times, a bracing tonic in the midst of the album’s melodic flow. “Cosmic Pulse” meditates on time’s river while overlapping vocals and a soaring violin seduce into the realm of dreams. Playful and delicate, “Echo’s Rose” evokes romantic intrigue, while “Sing to the Mountain” closes the album on an appropriately majestic note, festooned with banjo, guitar, violin, and howls to the moon. The song is quietly epic, alive with mystery and a desire for connection. This is everything good folk music should be.

Elephant Revival doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Its music is beautifully played and conceived with intelligence and deep genre knowledge, but the individual elements that make it up were already there for the taking—the flotsam and jetsam of American music. The band’s talent lies not just in its playing, but in the way it combines different existing modes of folk music. Lyrics that would seem cliché in the hands of lesser musicians are elevated; traditional melodies sound fresh.

These songs are compiled with a refreshing lack of production overlay and artifice. They are clean and crisp, simply presented without being “gritty.” At once ephemeral and truthful, this restless music is perfectly suited to journeys both literal and spiritual. Elephant Revival is interested in exploring connections, and this remarkable album does just that: stitching a cosmic folk tapestry from whole cloth.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.