Oliver the Crow – Self-Titled
-out June 22
3 / 5
We brimmed with excitement at the Civil Wars-inspired Nashville duo Oliver the Crow. Kaitlyn Raitz and Ben Plotnick trade cello and violin riffs respectively, and weave their vocals throughout their confident self-released folker of a debut, and we greatly enjoyed picking this album up. Their instrumentation is very barebones, their vocals simple, and their sound sparse; they make a lot with very little. But the proof of the pudding: while we enjoyed playing their self-titled a few times, we eventually found ourselves trailing off and listening to other new releases of this year. This is a good album, yes, but it lacks the replay-value we’d need before recommending it.
The most memorable song here is “As the Crow Flies,” fittingly enough. It has a great shape, a solid beat, and is as singable as any of the songs here. It’s the one song that sticks with us after the album’s played. What do we think is lacking on these tracks? We could use one of two options here: either Oliver the Crow could write denser, more complex tracks; or they could take the better solution of honing their performances during their tour. Listen to a song like “Bury Me Beneath the Willow”; it’s got solid writing, but their performances are lacking the je ne sais quoi of – well, actually we do know what: their performance is lacking an emotive core. Raitz and Plotnick’s vocals don’t fall flat necessarily, but they lack the immediacy that The Civil Wars so brilliantly drove in their songs. In a sense, Oliver the Crow’s main asset – simplicity – is its biggest weakness, especially when their simple songs leave them, in a way, naked on stage. They’re there on their instruments, they don’t have any particular flaws in their songs, but neither performer quite connects the emotional center of the song to us. It’s there, we can hear where it might be, but it doesn’t come out unfortunately.
The pair have quite a tour ahead of them, and we suspect weeks on the road will force them to connect with varied audiences and force them to emote more clearly. Perhaps they already do in their shows, but it doesn’t show on their debut; likely it will in an album or two. Until then, take a pass on this close miss.