Already, we’ve had some magnificent efforts from seasoned artists in 2012. But as far as nice surprises go, London’s Straylings are perhaps one of the most pleasant of the year so far.
The duo is comprised of talented Bahraini/Austrian songwriter Dana Zeera and ex-The Veils guitarist Oliver Drake. When Zeera moved to the UK a few years ago, she met Drake and the pair began making music together. What’s clear on ‘Entertainment On Foreign Grounds’ is that they make psychedelic infused folk music that gently shrouds the heart with a bluesy depression. And judging by the strength of the resulting sounds, they make it bloody well.
Whatever you want or expect from this debut, there’s a reflective, down and out sadness that reverberates throughout. But it’s not in a Waitsian, whisky-swilling, skid row-dwelling way. ‘Carver’s Kicks’ will let you know this from the off with an atmosphere that could easily suit an opium-soaked party in Haight-Ashbury, circa 1969.
The delicate musicianship and pristine, heartbreaking voice of Zeera hears Straylings hit gloomy heights with a ‘cocaine blues’ lament on ‘Bitter Face’. The listener will be lost in the hazy, lulling nature of ‘Marie & The Dusty Lands’ – a song steeped in a bleak sadness induced by dreamy, echoing harmonies and lush piano.
But even away from Straylings’ ethereal moments, their rockier edges are impressive. If PJ Harvey, Alberta Cross and Jefferson Airplane decided on a democratic collaboration we might get somewhere closer to grounding some descriptive musical pegs. But why earth their sound? The duo has a stronger sense of individuality that makes them more exciting than any copycat. ‘Animal Flag’ crowns this with some nicely portioned riffs before ‘To Lay Down Roots’ ends this rousing debut in reflective tone.
It’s a rocky road to stardom but Straylings are modestly making the right moves towards becoming a widely-known UK treasure. They are an impressive psyche-folk force already. Just give them a little time to weave unsuspecting music lovers into the fabric of their woozy sound, and the ball will start rolling. Expect a slot on Jools Holland and swathes of popularity to ensue.