The New York/Providence duo once again exhibit the strength and charm of their songwriting.
Relatives are a New York and Providence-based folk-rock band whose slow-burn melodies and roundabout lyrics are equal parts playful, bookish, and melancholy. The duo—Katie Vogel and Ian Davis—started writing together in 2007, and their close kinship is evident in the strength of their songwriting.
Their new album, Weighed Down Fortune, is filled with songs that are spare in instrumentation yet feel lush and full. “Hope Springs” rides a bouncing beat and jumpy melody in service of puzzling, circuitous lyrics like “surely someday we’ll find that after all it was intended as such.” Perhaps the funkiest and most immediate song on the album, “Typee,” counters its danceable beat with cryptic lines like, “It’s an apocryphal world—we can’t keep scratching our noses but never stop the itching as such.”
Another track, “The Ambiguities” reminds me of Mount Eerie and Julie Dorion’s excellent 2008 collaboration Lost Wisdom, both in its intimate vocal harmonies and in the simultaneous sorrow and hope embedded in its lyrics. Davis says he drew inspiration for the song in “Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, a novel by Herman Melville about wealth, loss, sex, death, and angst.” Melville’s novel and Weighed Down Fortune are alike in more ways than one: Both are oblique and evasive works that touch on romance, philosophy, writing, and family dynamics; but, in the end, a simple strength and beauty shines through.