Letters – In Case We Lose What We Have

Letters - In Case We Lose What We have 

Letters - In Case We Lose What We have

In Case We Lose What We Have opens with the click of what sounds like the pressing of the play button on an old tape player to begin “(Welcome in)”.  There is a layer of white noise that hovers over what sounds like a guitar and ukulele played together to create the basic beat with only a few chord shifts.  The music is muffled and creaky as if to give the listener the feeling of having just found an old tape—perhaps in the attic of dusty old boxes—putting it in the player and sitting down to listen through low quality speakers.  Washes of horns come and go as the muffled and completely indistinguishable vocals come buzzing through.  The songs ends when the stop button is pushed. 

While the rest of the album quality comes back to digital times, the opener sets the stage, welcoming the listener into a place and a time where things are simple.  You can let yourself get lost in the layers of male and female vocals, melodica, ukulele, toy piano, musical saw, cello, acoustic base, synths and harp.  There are no drums in this place.

The vocals are less sing-songy and more like bassy sing talking—a little less than beautiful with an edgy quality, cracking and hoarse but fitting perfectly with the musical strands woven around to provide the words a gentle cushion.  It reminds me of Soltero with a raw and emotional sound that works with spare instrumentation or a full backing band.

The vocal stylings don’t really change much in pitch or tempo from song to song but the artists maintain a balance that keeps them from falling into the bland category that can be so dangerous for singer-songwriters.  Each song is infused with its own character, sometimes beautiful with layers of swirling strings, sometimes a little quirky, sometimes edgy with cello squeaks and squaks or othertimes happy to ride along on bouncing toy piano or fancy acoustic finger picking.   

The cello masquerades as a violin in “Ode to Yr Medicine” for a sad, depressing quality with a chanting chorus of “what did you lose this time?”  “You make me feel (like the island I’m not)” is a beautifully hopeful ballad with a full sound that is brilliantly played. The slightly jittery cello and vocals that build to a climax at the end where it all comes tumbling down in one of those moments where it all peters out – as if in sudden embarrassment, the music just gives a little cough and quickly runs away.  This is appropriately followed by an interlude which ushers away any embarassment. 

In Case We Lose What We Have features eleven tracks plus five interludes, like mini experimental instrumental diversions.  The skills and talent of these artists make this a shining debut worth getting your hands on.  If you like slightly quirky, orchestral folk pop with an edge then you won’t be disappointed by this new five piece out of Olympia, Washington.