Review Summary: Excellent little EP of breezy folk-rock
Released in the middle of last year 'Perpetuity' is an EP offering a glimpse of great promise from a new trio out of Baltimore called 'Reforester'. It is a considerable improvement on a tentative sounding three-track single they released in 2019. Their sound is rooted in 70's singer/songwriter folk-rock, and acoustic soft-rock, with some 'indie' leanings.
While on the single each member shared the lead-vocal duties, on Perpetuity, lead guitarist Steve Hefter takes the lead of the band, writing and singing 4 of the 6 songs, and I will deal with his songs first.
The opening duo of 'Deaf Stethescope' and 'Drive by feel' have a summery, up-tempo, indie folk-rock vibe to them. Hefter sounds confident singing with a deep-pitched, sly, off-hand cool over lyrics that emphasise a sense of self-trust 'I removed the steering wheel just to prove I could drive by feel' as well as deeply cynical 'I looked into the sun and the darkness was overwhelming'.
While 'Drive by feel' is definitely an enjoyable breezy toe-tapper, 'Deaf Stethescope' is easily the worst song here, well, the song itself is not bad, but not even some effervescent organ can save it from the dreadful vocals - they sound like a pair of drunks who are struggling to remember the lines as they go along.
Hefter's next number, 'Break with the day' sounds like an old torch-ballad. Like most of the songs here, it's understated characteristics are its strength.
The album closer, 'No Mouth', is a semi-epic, art-folk ballad. Again, Steve Hefter is creative with his words 'Opened my voice but I had no mouth, closed my tears but my eyes just ran down'. The 4 1/2 minute song is anchored by a haunting guitar riff with jagged chords and has various instrumentation joining as the song progresses, as if building to a finale.
If Steve Hefter comes across as very cynical, his two-band mates are the exact opposite, to the point of big-eyed sincerity. Bassist Chris Laun might be the best vocalist in this band. Not only does he sing his own song 'End of the day' with a lot of flair, his well-timed backing vocals help underpin Hefter's songs as well (Hefter repays him nicely on this song tho). His voice is a little raspy, very 70's folk-rock, would've fit into "Stealer's Wheel" (Stuck in the middle with you) nicely.
However, the best songwriter in the band might just be their drummer Austin Stahl. His song 'Flying South' is very melodic, very tender, and the melody is highlighted by appropriate use of the guitar effects pedal. It's a very beautiful song. It does sound vaguely like the Foo Fighters song 'Aurora', but the persona of Stahl is like a good friend who's putting his hands on your shoulder, looking you in the eyes and telling you you're going wrong.
What I really like about this band is their songwriting abilities. They keep it simple, and the astute and well spaced production helps to emphasise what the band is doing. For example, the melodic guitar riff that opens 'End of the day'. It's just a simple guitar riff, right? But it's a really good one, and every note is very clear. Another example would be the chorus of 'Break with the day', how the flanger effect is applied to the guitars to try and create a more intimate atmosphere.
Hopefully we get more from them in the future. They seem to have everything going for them; three members who are each gifted singers and gifted songwriters, who each have a distinctive style. If they do decide to release a 10 - 12 track album it would effortlessly have good variety. For an EP of six songs there is already quite a lot of styles, and I will have to rate this 4 stars on the basis of it being an EP. If it were an album I'd give it 3.5