There’s a certain quality to The Staves’ close three-part harmonies that makes it impossible for them to emote anything other than joy.
The lyrics on the Watford trio’s new album, the Justin Vernon produced If I Was, may introduce a bitter darkness but lyrics such as “suffering as I suffer you” (‘Blood I Bled’) are delivered with a sense that summer is just around the corner.
It’s an intrinsic sweetness that Jessica, Emily and Camilla Staveley-Taylor know how to work to their advantage. Recent single ‘Stay’, for instance, is radio friendly folk-pop while the blues notes on ‘Black & White’ are akin to a de-gothed Smoke Fairies. On the sombre ’Winter Trees’, meanwhile, they embrace their cosiness and joke about the possibility of it being used on a John Lewis advert.
Their silken vocals are regularly placed centre stage, the sisters gathering around one microphone to sing the closing lines to ‘Let Me Down’ acapella, but their four-piece backing band also provides bold crescendos. Combining violin and ukulele with fuzzed electric guitars and dense drums, they bring a rockier edge to new track ‘Tired As F***’ and a hint of eeriness to ‘Eagle Song’.
Their repeated tendency to tiptoe around a darker sound without ever delivering on it does, however, get frustrating over the course of a 90-minute set.
There’s no doubting the purity of the sisters’ voices and their song-writing has many of the hallmarks of classic folk-pop. Yet ultimately The Staves never quite transport the audience to the emotional depths that they promise.