The blend of folk instruments into bedroom-pop projects is a risky mix, but when it’s done right it can be a great outcome.
Chicago-based band Barefoot on Bumblebees successfully blends the vocal work of a pop-rock group with folk instrumentation on their recent EP Ants for Abraham. The band has an interesting blend that finds the band mixing sounds from mid-2000s indie pop bands like Islands and Noah and the Whale.
Frontman Christopher Stryker treats the banjo like a straight rhythm guitar throughout the release, At limited points in tracks like “Days Like Feathers” the sound feels too empty, but for the most part plays an important role in creating that unique, mid-2000s sound the release has – especially when placed next to tracks that heavily rely on accordion and keys (“Blind Kids”).
The bouncing back-and-forth between vocalists keeps an album interesting and is one of the biggest strong suits a band can have. Case in point, here as well, with Stryker and drummer Gianna Purcell trading off lead vocals midway through the album and weaving in-and-out of the background of each other throughout the release. It’s a constant reminder of the unity behind a band and adds a lot to the personality of a record.
There’s times the album has huge missed opportunities, though. “Songs That No One Knows” has a fantastic whistling melody that holds the same weight of catchiness that lands bands on department store commercials, but the melody in the verses together leaves it feeling generic and bland. At four and a half minutes, there’s no reason for the track to keep going on-and-on, but it does and takes a lot away from what could have been a stand-out.
This release is close to being all-around great, but gets stuck in the cracks here and there through a few shortcomings. But a solid seven songs is enough to land Barefoot on Bumblebees on a watch list for the future, because the band is tight and seems to be onto something great.