Review Summary: The folk revivalist's summer album of 2010, it is hard not to enjoy the warm tones of Good Old War's self-titled sophomore album.
Good Old War reportedly composed and recorded their self-titled sophomore album in a cabin of the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania. For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of Pennsylvanian geography, the Pocono Mountains are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, and while seemingly isolated, stand only two hours from northern New Jersey and New York City by car. This juxtaposition of complete isolation and proximity to a bustling cultural center encapsulates Good Old War’s sound perfectly. The trio might seem like another Fleet Foxes imitation, lurking on mountainsides searching for that perfect introspective catharsis, but Good Old War are much too worldly to fall into that niche. Where Fleet Foxes might sing, “Lie to me if you will/At the top of Beringer Hill,” Good Old War demonstrates an awareness of their cosmopolitan audience in the real world by singing (on their first album), “I’m going to Coney Island to have myself a dog.” Trapped inside the warmth of their vocal harmonies, the deftness of their guitar progressions, and the precision of their uptempo rhythms is the energy of youth.
The album has three tracks titled “Good”, “Old”, and “War”, bookending the album with “Good” and “War” and placing “Old” in the middle of the album. They are short interlude songs, either leftover ideas or interesting little riffs that could not be expanded into full songs. The opening track is lush, demonstrating the group’s ability to compose beautiful vocal harmonies and fun, bouncy rhythms. Aesthetically, the track seems to transport the listener to that Pocono Mountain cabin--or The Shire, take your pick--as the group warms up their voices and instruments. It’s inviting, warm, and a perfect demonstration of everything the group is capable of without actually giving anything away.
“Good” gives nothing away because despite being an folk trio with limited instrumental capabilities, Good Old War manages to put out a lot of tracks without diluting the sound too much. As the band made an attempt to have every song on the album playable live, the variety on the album is little. Yet, the difference from quiet acoustic number “My Name’s Sorrow” to 1960s-influenced pop piece “Woogie Woody’s Hood Boogie”, from the simple “My Own Sinking Ship” to the infectious “Making My Life”, which grows organically from a drum groove to include some of the best harmonies on the album and an almost danceable groove, is quite striking. This, coupled with the fact that nearly every song on the album is under three minutes, make the album digestible and enjoyable from start to finish.
Good Old War is a rising star in the indie folk world, and consistency is their strong suit, as every song on the fifteen-track album ranges from good to fantastic. The listener is likely to come away singing the chorus of “My Own Sinking Ship” or “World Watching”, imagining the vocal harmonies beneath them. And the release date couldn’t be better; Good Old War
is the indie fan’s feel-good summer album of 2010.