Peaceful Beasts In An Ocean Of Weeds
Blessed Feathers’ new EP, Peaceful Beasts In An Ocean of Weeds, starts off with some relatively exotic instrumentation that might startle fans—namely, drums and electric guitar. The West Bend duo’s self-titled 2010 debut was strikingly sparse, with most of its rhythm stemming from gentle acoustic strumming, tambourine, and chanting and whoops. The stubborn minimalism extended to the songs themselves, making that album almost unapproachable, but the haunting harmonies and occasionally piercing lyrics (e.g. “Magazine”) generally made up for the sometimes tedious arrangements. But it’s not the plugging-in that makes Peaceful Beasts so much better—it’s the vastly improved songwriting. The full-band sound is both more mature and less world-weary, and the lyrics reveal flashes of brilliance.
Thematically, the EP is full of Americana imagery regardless of musical genre; opening track “By Song Through The Americas” would be a fitting alternate title for the record. The song compares favorably to The Rosebuds, sweeping and tugging at the heartstrings, and the vocal arrangements are far more sophisticated than anything the group has previously attempted. It sounds like the beginning of a journey, and although the record is only 16 minutes long, it’s an epic quarter-hour. “Holyoke/Springfield” evokes vivid characters in as few words as possible, and “Hey! All You Floridians” is a poignant expression of harmony between misunderstood sections of the grand melting pot called U.S.A.
Donivan Berube pulls no punches, but he doles out harsh truths without being mean. There is still a tribal element to the music, and the pounding drums and beefed-up electrical augmentation create a unique dynamic with the banjo, accordion, and acoustic guitar. The vocal interplay between Berube and Jacquelyn Beaupre is the focus, though, and while they’re occasionally too washed out in reverb, their harmonies are beautiful, perfectly capturing the joy and pain of the American struggle.
(Blessed Feathers open for Sea Wolf and Hey Marseilles at Club Garibaldi Thursday, Oct. 25.)