Review Summary: Outstanding folkrock/altfolk debut album, easily on par with the best in the genre
Four guys from different punk and hardcore bands form a band to play emotional folkrock music. Not an everyday scenario, but nonetheless a potentially interesting combination.
Dry The River successfully pour their collective energy into 12 songs of hope and melancholy on their debut album “Shallow Bed”.
Album opener “Animal Skins” immediately portrays a lot of the distinctive Dry The River sound, with it’s lush layered vocals and detailed violin parts, meticulously arranged in between the acoustic and electric guitars and pretty hard rocking rhythmic backbone. The song is a bit reminiscent of “The Bends” era Radiohead and although this makes the song stand out from the rest of the album, it’s just a very strong track and therefore a well chosen album opener.
By the time “Shield Your Eyes” comes along, the band effectively pulls the listener deeper in their emotional world. Lead vocalist Peter Liddle knows very well how to make optimal use of his beautiful high timbre and at the breakdown he just stops you in your tracks and makes you think and listen.
The addition of two more voices to the vocal palette of Dry The River makes the comparison to a band like “Fleet Foxes” obvious. However, it’s also a just comparison because these guys are equally impressive songwriters and vocalists. They do tend to rock a bit harder though and given their background it’s not hard to understand why this energy has such an authentic feel.
Especially in the first half of the album there's quite a few tracks that seem to have originated from just an acoustic guitar and singer Liddle, alone in a room. The added instruments in songs like “History Book” and “The Chambers & The Valves” are to much in service of the song and come across a bit forced, as if the band was trying to keep up a certain band sound while that wasn't necessarily what the song demanded.
Halfway through the album though, the pastoral “Demons” seems to be where the band rid themselves of this and just let the song flow as is, without the obligatory kick drum or hihat hits.
The haunting and beautiful “Bible Belt” follows in the same vein with the whole band sounding cohesive, powerful and emotional. Although “No Rest” starts off as a light hearted track, it builds up to a beautiful and emotional climax ( “…I loved you in the best way possible…”).
The restrained and beautiful “Shaker Hymns” serves as the overture to the album’s magnum opus, fittingly titled “Weights & Measures”. Every ingredient of the band is perfectly dosed here, the build up and overall arrangement is great, the vocal melodies exquisite and the romantic lyric beautiful and evocative.
Although the folkrock/altfolk genre has been successfully explored and reinvented in the last decade by bands like “Fleet Foxes”, “Bon Iver” and “Band Of Horses”, newcomers Dry The River definitely earn a spot for themselves with their colourful, melodic and at times seriously rocking rendition of this once forgotten genre.
“Shallow Bed” is an outstanding debut album in an already crowded and pretty strong field. Tracks like “Weights & Measures” and “Bible Belt” are among the best in the genre.