Summertime Wishes: June Cat Review

Our music reviews seek to trace the narratives that weave between songs and albums. Check out our Rhythmic Fiction tag for other stories told through music.

Stumbling upon new music is probably the greatest aspect of online accessibility. I stumbled upon Walk Off the Earth (along with a few million other people) when they posted their now-famous cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”. And I stumbled upon Gotye when that song played in a bar in Devon, England, spurring a conversation between myself and a friend over whether the vocalist merely sounded like Sting, or if it was, in fact, Sting.

Anyway, I have once again stumbled upon more promising music, courtesy of June Cat.

The brand new EP from June Cat, a folk rock duo coming out of Los Angeles, is satisfying in its simplicity. The five-song EP June Cat is substantive in tone and easy to sink into. Musicians and vocalists Taylor and Colin have compiled an EP that leaves me wanting to hear their compositional potential across a full-length album.

“Don’t go breaking the door down”

The EP opens with a soft guitar and dual vocals by Taylor and Colin. In “When the World is Ready”, the vocals are immediately light and airy, but this mood is quickly contrasted with an almost foreboding background harmony of steady drums and lightly distorted guitar. Taylor’s voice is the more prominent of the duo, even as they blend together like neighboring strings of a harpsichord. The lyrics are cautiously optimistic, hopeful that at some future, distant point, the world will be ready to accept wisdom and enlightenment, concluding that “Words will never be enough / To take the fear from the unloved / They don’t have to be afraid / ‘Cause soon enough these things will change”.

“Better Place” kicks in with a faster tempo driven by rhythmic acoustic strumming. Taylor carries the first verse with an unforgiving dryness. Then, the musical harmony breaks open once again with an Old West energy that is well contained, but not restricted. This song turns a gospel tone on its head by enticing the listener to “meet me down by the church in the evening” to escape to a better place. Again, the lyrics present an almost naive hopefulness of escaping the troubles of this world.

June Cat seem to understand well the boundaries of their own songwriting. The lyrics are simple prose, perfect for the feathery folk style of the duo. And the music and backing harmonies are controlled. This is in contrast to a mainstream folk rock band like Mumford & Sons, who seem to have found their niche in slowly building songs that become frenetic and raw. That type of energy is fitting for a foot-stomping style of folk rock, but the cool emotional tones of June Cat are refreshingly sweet, like a peach cider.

“You can’t see the other side”

Taylor and Colin’s voices are finally separated in “Give It Time” as they alternate verses over a soft, melodic guitar before combining again in the third verse. Their vocal harmony is backed with a light, but resonating, violin. The lyrics tell of a one lover soothing another, asking for both patience and calm as their love grows.

This soft harmonization continues in “Mother,” which builds on a layered instrumental backdrop. The lyrics are once again sweet, hopeful for a better day to come: “Mother, don’t you know / Soon enough I’ll be / Alright / So dry your eyes”.

The final song on the EP, “Wrong & Right,” is my favorite. The guitar riff is more lively than in previous songs, and the dual lyrics feel like they’re leading to something, rather than staying put. After two verses, the song quiets long enough for the initial chorus, and then opens up with an echoing refrain. The song’s structure feels simple, but the refrain (“I can’t change your mind / Take your time”) adds a bigger, more ambient sound. These two halves are bonded together through a trance-like movement of the rhythm, and then climax after the final refrain, bringing a portentous, almost anxious close to the song and EP.

“Shivering in your blankets watching for the sun”

This EP feels like a daydream in a summer’s meadow. It’s music floats through the ears, perfectly complementing the vocals. In that way, it’s great background music. What’s remarkable is that the final song takes the same airy feel and then juxtaposes it with a psychedelic breakdown which brings the the wishful lyrics to a foreboding close. Although there is no date set for a full album release, I am looking forward to seeing how June Cat’s lyrical prose and musical harmonies play across an entire album. Here’s to hoping for more.

Steve D

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