Jul 09, 2014
Two voices sometimes in unison, sometimes in harmony, singing acoustic-folk, around a microphone. No this is not the 1960’s, although when you hear that description, it’s hard not to picture acts like Simon & Garfunkel. And that’s the musical war zone that Ash & Bloom (real names Matt McKenna and James Bloemendal) are likely walking into. With their recently released new album, Let The Storm Come, the duo find themselves faced with the inevitable comparisons to that 1960’s New York duo.
McKenna and Bloemendal met a decade ago in Hamilton, began collaborating, and arrived upon the name Ash & Bloom. For them the new moniker represented the differences between themselves both personally and musically, and their lyrics which often shifted between sadness and joy, light and darkness. In November 2013, they released their debut EP, which paved the road for this new release.
Let The Storm Come opens with a quiet guitar signature, and the opening title track. As the voices then blend with the lyrics, “Hello rain, I don’t know why you took me by surprise/Hello rain, you’re next in line, you’re taking back the sky…” the listener is hard-pressed to hold back their reservations and making those pre-conceived judgements.
Ash & Bloom – “Let The Storm Come”
Yes there are times when Ash & Bloom wear the Simon & Garfunkel influences proudly (by the way, check YouTube for their fine cover version of S&G’s “59th Street Bridge Song/Feeling Groovy”), but there are even tinges of 1990’s band the Rembrandts in tunes such as “Someday Soon,” while “Endless Pursuit Of Cool” show traces of other influences, such as the Barenaked Ladies. However, the album’s 12 original songs plus a cover of “Tainted Love,” go beyond those easy comparisons. They are well-constructed, mostly subtle in arrangement, but with a strong air of confidence.
One song that speaks as a sort of harbinger for that confident attitude is, “Manna For My Soul.” As the singer sings, “every tune starts with a whisper, turning the bustle into beats and bars. It’s manna for my soul,” we get a strong sense of that poised mood.
Ash & Bloom – “Manna For My Soul”
Sometimes the issue with this genre of music has been artists who try too hard to be ‘cool.’ In doing so, they then find themselves too far outside the musical box. Ash & Bloom show the ability to off-set the darker songs with lighter fare, and ground a touch of humour into their songs. “Heaven Is A Ghost Town” and the lyrics, “If angels are recording every sin, will anybody ever make it in? If it’s only saints allowed, heaven is a ghost town,” is a perfect example.
Ash & Bloom – “Heaven Is A Ghost Town”
Every musician has their influences. It is in some ways a passing of the torch and a badge of honor to expose your influences to potential new audiences. In this sense when taken as a complete package and the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, Ash & Bloom have absorbed any indirect or overt influences and stylized their own sound.
Let The Storm Come
is music sung at times like a whisper into your ear, evoking a feeling of closeness, giving the listener an emotional and physical connection to each song. It is music that will have you listening intently to the words, while also humming along. Ash & Bloom combine sadness and joy, the brooding with the inspiring. This is pop-folk that doesn’t try to be overtly indie, and in doing so, makes itself accessible to all palettes.
– Marvin Matthews