It’s fun to catch bands in a sprouting age – in the time where you can see the potential for great music, but where it just isn’t there yet. Despite having been around for a little while, Bloomington-based folk group Red Scarves is exactly at that point on their latest self-titled EP.
Red Scarves starts strong but begins to fall off around the third track, “Across the Sea” (it’s also too perfect to not mention: the album’s cover visually aids how the quality seems to taper off as the release goes on).
“Running Start” is a fantastic opener and does as its name suggests, getting the release off on the right foot. The track is fluid, smooth, and hits a bullseye on what this band can do. The track is already gripping with its jubilant feel but the harmonies that come in at the end of each verse smack you back in your chair and draw your attention away from anything else you’re doing. It’s often when a group has multiple members with vocal capabilities that their strongest hand to play will be their vocal mixture, and here the case is no different. The harmonies here help the track’s flow, which is there from the start, when the drums come in with a marching momentum and the track bursts in all together.
The momentum of the record is only there for a short while, though. The second track, “Shrug,” is fine, but that’s about all it is. It holds some great harmonies and would likely be a great song to see live, but it begins to show off the over-production the record suffers from as the vocals even clip at one point near the end of the recording. Overall, it’s just there – skip-able and forgettable, despite having little jarring out.
The album takes a deep drop-off in quality at the third track. “Across the Sea” sounds like it could be beautiful and stirs up a false hope as the acoustic climbs out from the fading violin in the beginning of the track. Every so often there’s a soft, acoustic track that just grips at your emotions and you need to hear it over and over until you play it out. You get that false hope in those first few seconds, but it’s immediately clear this is not that track when the vocals come in. The lyrics are nearly unbearable, and as the song goes on you start to notice there’s no clear melody outside of the chorus. It all sounds forced and not well-thought out, and the potential for something great quickly falls through the floor on not just the track, but the record.
“Old Flames” suffers from the same issues “Across the Sea” does later on, just at a faster pace. “Tennessee Dreams” gets a little closer to what the third track was aiming for, but still lacks in lyrical quality. The harmonies raise the bar once again, but a busy mandolin solo takes away your focus towards the end of the track.
Red Scarves is a band you’d want to see live – and you should see live – instead of listening to the recordings cold. It’s obvious on here that the band works well together and has the potential to turn out some great stuff (“Running Start”), but the tracks sound forced through the records gutsy grasp in recording quality and leaves the band sounding like they’re in over their heads.