You might think that Melbourne band Forest Falls are just another group of out-of-time folkies, but refreshingly there is a lot more to the band’s sound than just acoustic guitars and pretty harmonies. Their new EP Hounds, which was recorded in Sydney with ARIA-winning producer Wayne Connolly (who has worked with the likes of Paul Dempsey, Josh Pyke and Cloud Control) shows a level of depth and promise that goes far beyond the self-consciously retro folk of stadium-filling bands like Mumford & Sons.
The title track, released as the lead single, is an immediately striking and beautiful piece of pop. The group vocal laps rhythmically like lazy waves, gorgeously complementing the upbeat tambourine-aided rhythm and electric piano textures. Superficially, the song resembles U.S. indie heavyweights Grizzly Bear, particularly with lead singer Jon O’Neill’s lush, boyish vocals, but when a saxophone appears in the second half of the song, it shows a sense of soul and groove that is hard to find elsewhere.
The remaining five songs on the EP are hardly second-rung to the standard set by “Hounds.” “Where Do We Go From Here” sets the scene in stunning fashion with its tumbling drums and bright, echoing electric guitar. Later on, “Alistair” features some serene string and woodwind embellishments; the song is so lovely that it feels as if it’s over far too soon.
The tropes of the folk genre are here, but the band doesn’t always play them straight. At first, “Fool,” seems like any faceless folk song with its thumping kick drum, fingerpicked guitar and drifting harmonies, but then its transcendent chorus explodes seemingly out of nowhere, surrounded by cascades of luminous strings.
Connolly’s production has created something rich and full of life, but that would mean very little if the band’s songs weren’t always of a very high standard. The steps forward shown on this EP are perhaps a little tentative, and this isn’t music that’s likely to change your life, but it’s still very good. It’s great to see a band imbuing such an old genre with new life instead of letting it grow stagnant.
Hounds is out May 1st. You can pre-order now through iTunes.
Forest Falls are playing The Bondi Bowling Club on May 14 with Jenny Broke the Window and at The Gaelic Club on May 16 with Sons of the East and Bears with Guns.