Imagine a world where the Fleet Foxes spent their formative years training in jazz instead of soaking up classic records of the ’60s. What resulted would probably sound pretty close to Honeylion, an 8-song EP from Chapel Hill, NC sextet Virgins Family Band.
Hopefully that doesn’t sound too flip or dismissive of the talents of the band’s members. It’s just that the comparison is unmistakeable. The sound of this record is mostly the sound of finger-plucked strings resonating through mellow neck pick-ups and supporting a dulcet yet substantive vocal melody. It’s a pretty winning formula and it creates an incredibly enjoyable listening experience throughout these eight tracks.
What really works in Virgins Family Band’s favor are the vocals of singer Saman Khoujinian. These are what keeps the record squarely out of “this is boring” territory. Taste is subjective, of course, but jazz-rock albums do tend to become equated with easy-listening background noise for whatever business one has at Starbucks, but that’s a fate Khoujinian aptly avoids. Despite the vocals’ pleasing qualities (it’s melodious enough to fit right in with your chai latte), Khoujinian’s voice also has a bit of grit to it, not to mention a strong emotional base. It’s soulful and attractive singing, and it goes a long way to making this record an engaging project.
Twin band drummers Gabriel Anderson and Phil Hamilton also do a lot here, playing with a light yet flexible style that find thwm bringing the thunder at the few points of this record that require it. Honeylion finds Anderson and Hamilton acting as emotional punctuation more than once and to great effect. Their drumming’s a joy to listen to.
The last track of this record, “Lily Molusco,” takes a DeVotchKa-esque acoustic turn that, while not really sounding like the seven songs before it, is totally welcome, at least from this reviewer. I must admit that, given my own personal preferences, a whole album of songs like this might have scored even higher with me. But preferences aside, there is a wonderful quality to this track that aptly plays Khoujinian’s vocals against Nate Dierk’s nimble guitar-work. Although I recommend this track the most, I’m not sure if it’s totally representative of what Virgins Family Band can do, but it is a truly excellent piece of skillful indie-folk that I will enjoy listening to quite a few times.
Get more from Virgins Family Band on their website.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more