When considering some of the great harmonious folk/alt-folk bands today, the names Lucius, Joseph, and The Wild Reeds immediately spring to mind. Another name to add to this list is Lenore. Centered around the gorgeous vocals of Joy Pearson and Rebecca Marie Miller, the Portland, Oregon-based band’s debut album is a thing of beauty. Not exactly traditional folk, Lenore.’s music is ethereal and fantasy-like and, in a spine-tingling way, immersive and cathartic.
The album’s opener, “Ether’s Arms”, immediately introduces the spectacle of Pearson and Miller’s harmonies. Their vocals are haunting and wistful yet breathtaking. The orchestration is highlighted by Jessie Dettwiler’s yearning cello and Edward Cameron’s guitar which further add to the song’s mystique. Pearson and Miller’s words, meanwhile, feel like a lament to a time when Mother Nature ruled the Earth.
“So lay me under the ancient tree
Let the roots and the branches devour me
Deep and lovely, safe from harm
Back into the Ether’s Arms.”
On the low-key yet moving “Breathe”, Lenore. take us to church with this gospel-like tune. Cameron and Dettwiler’s instrumentation is masterfully taut, allowing Pearson and Miller to carry the song vocally. And like a sermon, the two preach about overcoming fear through unity. A haze hovers over “The Sun”, a gripping and mystical country-folk number à la Timber Timbre. The storyline, though, is Neil Young-esque, as the band takes us on a journey of self-discovery through the darkness. “The sun can come and find me if he wants,” sing Pearson and Miller to denote how one is already lost and chooses not to be found.
The throbbing “Heart So Heavy” is the one song where the band echo Lucius with dramatic folk-pop arrangements, slow-building harmonies, and love-centered lyrics. Yet on “Pull The Reins”, they return to what they do best – creating dark “witch-folk” where the music sounds like a Brothers Grimm fairytale.
To classify Lenore. solely as a folk band would be a mistake. A ’70s-era Fleetwood Mac vibe is heard on “Heavy Heart” where the two vocalists channel Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie while Cameron channels his inner Lindsey Buckingham. “I know you have your demons and so do I,” Pearson and Miller cry out on this song about running from the past.
The ’70s also reigns on “Sharp Spine”. With guest vocalist Eric Bachmann (Crooked Fingers, Archers of Loaf), whose tenor is akin to Neil Diamond, Lenore.’s melancholic folk is transformed into a spirited, hand-clapping tune. It is like a campfire version of “Sweet Caroline”, but in this case you become completely lost in the gently stunning harmonies.
This song is a perfect encapsulation of Lenore’s talents, where despite two immensely gifted vocalists this is still a full band. At times, Cameron, Dettwiler, or both steal the song with their instrumentation, such as on “The Sun” and the romantic “Blue”. Even when Pearson and Miller are the stars, they do the unthinkable – their vocals are kept soft and restrained, allowing emotion to naturally take hold of the song. While some of music’s bigger pop stars let their voice explode and dominate, for Pearson and Miller, their voices are just two elements of Lenore.’s captivating sound.
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