By Jordan Ottesen
Harpers’ debut self-titled album, released in September 2021, is a refreshing return to the Americana/Folk sound of Provo that led Tyler Glenn and Corey Fox to start the yearly Cowboys and Indies show in 2006. Indeed, it’s hard to listen to this album and not think of artists like Joshua James, Grizzly Goat, The Head & The Heart, and Nathanial Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Sometimes the similarities to Joshua James, in particular, are simply uncanny.
Despite the similarities, however, Harpers creates a sound that is uniquely their own; one they’ve understandably described as “psychedelic southwestern.” The album is not only drenched in fuzzy guitars and vocal delay effects, but it also exhibits more experimental instrumentation such as the mellotron-esque flute in “Talking Pictures” or the haunting organ in “Listening,” Sprinkle the honky-tonk piano throughout for flavor, and you have the perfect ingredients for a mature Southern Rock sound that rivals any of the big names in the genre. Their instrumentation selection is all very deliberate, like a tapestry that weaves together contrasting “colors” to create a greater, more diverse picture.
Every song on this album is designed to make you feel something, and the emotional spectrum is broad: triumph, despair, admiration, frustration, skepticism, resolution. “By and By,” for example, sings of feeling hopelessly in love with someone while “Listening” seems to be more about a love gone dry. “Static” wrestles with the frustration of how polarizing perspectives and arguments can be. “Shine on Me” holds themes of a heartfelt conversation and pondering trials of faith. No matter the subject, it’s all delivered with genuineness; a feeling that’s only further exemplified by their selection of organic instrumentation and complex, sometimes bluesy, music theory.
Jacob Beck’s vocals are yet another shining element on this album. Tastefully coarse but sincere, his voice, sung through an ever-present delayed reverb effect, perfectly epitomizes the deep emotions portrayed in each song. This, in tandem with the occasional 4 (or more?) part harmonies, makes for a listening experience that truly immerses listeners in the contemplative backwoods environment that bred Harpers’ sound in the first place.
Throughout the album, it’s clear the band has heavily prioritized the use of dynamics. In one moment they’re smooth, gentle, and quiet. In the next, they’re descending into a whirlpool of glittering piano arpeggiations blended with explosively crunchy distorted guitars. Indeed, they have no qualms with using massive instrumental breaks to drive their message home. “Static” in particular stands out as a magnificently dynamic and complex piece. What an amazing experience it would be to witness it, and the album as a whole, live.
All things considered, Harpers’ debut self-titled album is a fantastic showcase of the band’s already mature sound. It’s clear they’re composed of musicians who have not only perfected their craft individually but are also practiced in blending it all together for something much greater. Spend some time with this album listening, relistening, and listening again. You’ll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with it.
Make sure to follow Harpers on Instagram and check out “Static” below.
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