Boy know what it means to reflect on the monotony around them, but in their maturing, We Were Here leaves joy behind.
"You can't take a picture of this, it's already gone." Those were the last words uttered on a particular HBO show's finale, words that ring true with regard to the sentiments of Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass, the two women that comprise the duo known as Boy. With Mutual Friends, the band lived the quotation by being in the moment and going with the flow of life's monotony. The two seem to find the inspiration to write songs with each clumsily dropped plate shattering on the floor of a cafe, as well as each apartment room that can be gazed at from a slowly moving train.
Poetry within Boy becomes the polishing of the simple, ultimately in a way that becomes as refined as a Zadie Smith tale. Where Mutual Friends was the group dancing awkward footsteps toward what could be their sound, We Were Here, this Hamburg-based indie band's second album, feels more reserved, like a precocious wallflower delicately making sure that no foot is stepped on in their dance. They safely waltz away from doom, creating an new album that focuses on space, time, and memory, dealing with those concepts neatly and within a saddening short period of time.
The vocal timbre that Boy commit to is one that is one with the breeze, and in the spirit of that unity, the accompanying instruments, as well as the newly included synth -- one that rarely makes a mark on any song on the record -- deal with calm in the storm of the group's lyrical content. In "We Were Here" brass becomes as golden as the great lion Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe series. The trumpets do not roar, but instead hold steady as the majesty of the duo use their words and their silences to epitomize the grandeur of location. The beast does not leave in "Fear", instead returning to a root found in a song on their previous record ("Waltz For Pony"). In both songs, the beasts of fear and time are hungry. But only in the former do Boy charge in with figurative war horses to demonstrate a maturity not seen on their debut.
The tenderness in Boy's approach to soothing instrumentation should not be taken as weakness. "Hotel" douses keys with a bitter concoction, making the chorus flow like honey-coated poison. When the lyrics "Short stories on every floor" are uttered, it becomes clear that the duo believe in a wilderness to every hotel room. The acoustics and keyboard highlight that greatly. At their best, Boy can sound like a mixture of City and Colour and Low. Both bands channel the energy of what "trouble" can mean, and on songs like "Flames" -- a track that feels like both Sonja and Valeska had seen an apartment fire all the way from a plane -- and the country-like "Into the Wild", the duo know that their story's instrumental content and lyrical content must engage anxiety and one's humanity in the face of vague troubles.
In the face of problems, the band deal with imagery and memories. "New York" prides itself by being incredibly light, making it fare for ad agencies wanting a song to go with a teary, yet kid-like atmosphere to it. "No Sleep for the Dreamer" and "Hit My Heart" also feel light, while also trying to find the leftover bits of klutzy joy that were found on their previous record. The latter is a song that hones in on social media and selfies, but the verses can become lost on listeners that want something soothing. It is in this almost unbearable lightness that the album's flaw can be found: the lacking of the child-like and dorky elements within Mutual Friends hurts We Were Here. In its reflections of possible nostalgia and lust for maturity, it forgets that fun can be part of the equation. There are no tunes that make listeners want to dance embarrassingly in Wal-Mart's garden sections like "Little Numbers" and there are no tracks filled with reckless abandon like "Silver Streets". While this new effort is polished and, without a doubt good, it dabbles in one shade of color and does not explore the whole palette.
But that should not stop Boy from writing their story. Although on occasion they sound like friendly indie that might not rival the rawness of a group like Waxahatchee or the wondrous Feist, the duo really feel like they should not be compared to with anyone. They are on their horses, traversing a land and making note of the world on their venture. In that way, they're ethnographers that brandish simplicity and sing it proudly. They are better than being known as a flavor of the week, and they know that they can show it as they spearhead toward their next efforts.