Album Review: The Staves – ‘Good Woman’

The Staveley-Taylor sisters create their most personal and intimate album yet with their first in four years, Good Woman. Though known for their ethereal three-part harmonies and gentle strokes of finger-picked guitar, here, The Staves explore their maturing sound and enter into different sonic worlds. Amber Frost explains how they did it.

Opening track Good Woman is the epitome of how far The Staves have traveled in the ten years that they have been creating music. It sounds characteristically like them: close three-part harmonies, the folk-like guitar timbre, yet the added layers of drums and electric sentiments prove that these three sisters have still got a lot to offer the music industry. In an interview with Stereogum, Camilla, the youngest of the three sisters, divulges that the track is about: “The idea of trying to figure things out and trying our best to be good people and to be good women, and working out what that even means? Sonically it felt like a good introduction to the album and a lot of the new sounds that feature on it.”

The track certainly does its best to create the illusion that behaving like a ‘good woman’ is a troublesome thing. The concord of different female voices curates a sense of calm chaos, alluding to the idea of those inner voices in your head cause so much worry. Jessica confirms that the song is supposed to do that: “The idea was to create the kind of inner chatter in your mind – and especially as a woman, all the worries that go around your head. You’re not worrying just about yourself; you’re worried about so many other people that you care for in your life, that you feel responsible for. And when you add together a number of women’s worries, it all just becomes this noise.”

Paralysed sounds as though someone is singing to us through a phone and feels like a very fitting ode to the past year.’

Best Friend is the type of song you’d hear on the radio and can’t help but hum along. It showcases how The Staves can still maintain true to their sound whilst exploring a more popular and upbeat formula. Careful, Kid is arguably the album’s stand-out track from the perspective of exploring different electronic techniques. Although the opening sounds like a fuzzed-up electric guitar, it is in fact Camilla singing through a distortion pedal, showing that this album allowed the sisters to explore new techniques and equipment. Whilst this is the only track of its kind on the album, it fits in nicely amongst the gentler tracks and is a song that you want to listen to as a stand-alone and as part of the album as a whole. The sisters address their younger selves in a way that we all wish we could.

“Be careful, kid. If you’re ready or not, you’re gonna get hit,” captures the chaotic twenty-something realization that adulthood is rushing at you. Diaphanous melodies are littered throughout and Nothing’s Gonna Happen is no exception. The track sounds as though it came straight from their first album, Dead & Born & Grown. Jessica’s signature gentle finger-picking returns as the voices blend into a luscious cascade of solemn lyrics. This more stripped back track allows the focus to be on the beauty of the voices as the soft hum of woodwinds and brass accompany.

Paralysed sounds as though we are listening to someone sing to us through a phone, and feels like a very fitting ode to the past year we have all faced. It is one of the most emotional tracks on the record as it completely contrasts with the rest of the songs in terms of texture. Being the only hit to feature a solo voice for the majority, it allows for Camilla to vocally convey her honest truth. The track provides the narrative that they all have their own individuals lives away from the band and from being sisters, but as Emily and Jess’s voices join Camilla for the second half of the song, it feels as though the message is that they will always have each other no matter what they are going through.

As a whole, the album explores how The Staves have pulled through a turbulent period of intense loss, grief, and beauty. With the unfortunate passing of their mother, the end of a five-year relationship, and the birth of Emily’s first child, the record has allowed the three sisters to process the rollercoaster that is life. This is their most emotional full-length to date and both the lyrics and instrumentation merge together to showcase the band’s ability to be truly vulnerable through music.

Written by: Amber Frost

Edited by: Alex Duke


Featured image courtesy of The Staves via Facebook.