Alt-folk aficionados are sure to get a big kick out of Teach Me to Love, the latest from Toronto troupe Beams. But aside from the twangy banjos and Appalachian-tinged percussion, the new album will also appeal fans of both Lucinda Williams and Kate Bush. Beams' frontwomen Anna Mernieks and Heather Mazhar bring haunting yet beautiful vocals to the proceedings, helping Teach Me to Love straddle more than a few genres and styles.
"Live in the Real World" is a prime example of all those elements converging, to thrilling effect. Its punchy drumming and sepia-toned Old West banjo (plucked by Mernieks, whose talents are clearly electric) fit snugger than tongue and groove over the mellifluous vocal delivery. While that song is a sumptuous slice of otherworldly Americana, "Apartment in My Head" rocks far harder, thanks to the band's multifaceted rhythm section. Mernieks' fluttering high notes make it sound like she's singing about a haunted house instead of the apartment that the song is named after, while the bump-in-the-night percussion provides a more aggressive undercurrent. Only scant banjo notes from Mernieks give the song a somewhat Americana feel.
Another highlight is the sparsely sung, banjo-rife "Dreamcatcher," which sports percussion that booms in short bursts like thunder echoing down from a distant mountain. Speaking of such summits, "My Second Time at the Mountains" has tingling guitar and rattling background banjo that, along with Mernieks and Mazhar's sugary harmonies, almost make it a snug fit for pop country radio or the adult contemporary portions of the dial — if not for the idiosyncratic lyrics and pummelling drum breaks that pop up at unexpected moments.
Indeed, Beams' latest LP shines like light refracted through a prism, and listeners are sure to be dazzled by each eclectic shade of the band's musical rainbow. (Be My Sibling)