Published Dec 03, 2013Brooklyn-based duo Jesse Barnes and Yvonne Ambrée, who together call themselves Take Berlin, need only six songs to make their case. The Lionize EP is a gorgeous, irresistible set of strummy, lo-fi ballads. It's a record you could have on repeat all night and never notice or get tired of.
Perhaps what's most impressive about this duo is their impeccable sense of restraint. Barnes and Ambrée make sparse use of acoustic guitars, a Wurlitzer, a horn or two, an old tape deck and their voices. The result, from the haunting first track "Verona" to the lyrical "Sebastian," feels both intimate and expansive. The lilting melodies distract admirably from sometimes distressing subject matter, give or take a song about a rather princely alley cat ("Kentucky").
The quiet, careful plotting and the charming duets borrow a page from pitch-perfect Portland duo A Weather, but by the second and third times through the songs begin to cascade, revealing the influence of João Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim (pre-Stan Getz) and their gentle sambas and rhythmic fusion of the guitar with intimate, emotional vocals.
"Stranger," the album's trembling denouement, confirms that Take Berlin won't be unknowns much longer. (Mouthwatering Records)