Unlike, say, fellow New York-based purveyors of folkish music Akron/Family, Brooklynites Oakley Hall don’t get off on expanding the confines of traditional American music through wigged-out experimentation.
But don’t assume they’re not innovators – as Oakley Hall demonstrate on their debut for hot-again indie Merge (their fourth LP overall), they’re a band invested in building their own tradition of people’s music from the ground up. They focus on pristine songwriting and incorporating occasional jolts of sweaty, greasy Southern rock into their roots-folk-rock melange.
The range is fantastic but never jarring. Marine Life opens with hushed vocals and repeated fingerpicked motifs similar to Great Lake Swimmers, but cracks open into great bursts of electric guitar at crucial points banjo-driven Rue The Blues is Dolly Parton by way of Okkervil River the sombre lament Angela soars on the strength of Rachel Cox’s dreamy vocals. Buoyed by thoughtful production, these are songs that sound like instant classics.