Audio Mixer: Alalal.
Recording information: Fish Factory Studios, London; Fry Pharmacy Recording Studio, Nashville.
Illustrators: Lamberg; Ahonen; Andrey Goldin.
The debut full-length album from New York's Beau, 2016's That Thing Reality, finds the singer/songwriter duo straddling the line between introspective '60s folk and quirky, high-energy late-'70s punk. Featuring the talents of Heather Golden and Emma Jenney, Greenwich Village's Beau often sound like the long-lost daughters of punk legend Patti Smith and art-pop icon Rickie Lee Jones. Which is to say that Golden and Jenney have distinctive, high-pitched voices that swell and coo over their primarily acoustic-based songs with an often violent, birdlike energy. Its an arresting juxtaposition that belies their soft-focus image and knack for lyrical pop melodicism. Admittedly, for many listeners it may also fall under the heading of an acquired taste; one worth the effort. Working with producer alalal aka Al O'Connell (Bruno Mars, Rufus Wainwright, Metronomy), Beau have come up with a bare-bones production that, smartly, does little to tamper with their heretofore coffeehouse approach to arty pop. These are largely acoustic guitar-based recordings accented with whipcrack drums, woody piano, and tube-driven electric guitar. Cuts like "Jane Hotel," "One Wing," and "Oceans" are echoey, languid numbers that fit more into the duo's '60s folk end of the spectrum. Conversely, tracks like the minor-key "Mosquito," the aggressively absurdist "Animal Kingdom," and the twangy, desire-ridden "Sweet Lips" are acidic anthems delivered with a rambunctious, late-night energy that's more '70s garage rock than '60s garden flower. In that sense, along with older artists like Smith and Jones, Beau bring to mind the stylistically varied approaches of contemporary acts like Britain's Kitty, Daisy & Lewis and New York's Jack + Eliza. Ultimately, it's Beau's combination of stylish folk glamour and gritty basement punk energy that lends That Thing Reality an effectively unpredictable spark. ~ Matt Collar