Published Jun 24, 2014What do two sweet-sounding acoustic folk singer-songwriters who met in Hamilton ten years ago have in common with Simon & Garfunkel c. 1960s New York? Nothing, really, except that the comparison is hard to avoid. Ash & Bloom (a.k.a. Matt McKenna and James Bloemendal) breathe new life into a familiar musical space.
The duo's first full-length album, Let the Storm Come, combines gentle harmonizing with sing-along folk-rock souvenirs, stopping just shy of the anthemic drive of, say, Mumford & Sons or Of Monsters and Men. These guys, in other words, are more concert-in-the-park than arena. Hence the nostalgia.
But McKenna and Bloemendal have a lot to say and they distinguish themselves with some refreshingly heart-on-sleeve songwriting and enviable self-confidence, slightly surprising given all the introspection and heartbreak here; clearly, one or more of these guys was hurt badly or screwed up a relationship or two along the way. The emotional weight of the lyrics, though, is counterbalanced by uplift. The arrangements are restrained when they need to be and get up and go when they should.
In fact, these two are at their best when they're in a hurry, and standout tracks "Heaven is a Ghost Town" and "Endless Pursuit of Cool" showcase their storytelling as well as their pop-folk influences. The album also features songs co-written by Peter Katz, Caroline Brooks (The Good Lovelies), Julie Crochietere and Rob Szabo.
"Someday soon," they sing, "I'll make the rules, I'll be the boss/ No one will ever say/ I can't get my way/ That I can't do what I want." If the 12 songs on Let the Storm Come are any indication, it's safe to say they'll get their way. (Orange Lounge Recording Company)