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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Leonard Cohen meets The Pixies

“Every rooftop unsteady on its stirs/Every rolled ankle leaning on its crutch/Every old drunk stumbling backwards searching for the wall,” Chris Senseney tells us. “You can’t save ’em all.”
The tone of Big Harp’s sophomore album, “Chain Letters,” announces itself within seconds of the first track “You Can’t Save ‘Em All.” Though soaked in a melancholy of experience, the impression given isn’t exactly desolate. There is a sad reality in the decision imposed on the listener: “You have to choose who you let fall.”
Senseney’s voice meets that decision with an apathetic folk singer’s drawl in the opening song, but in other tracks, such as “Some People Are Born Strange,” it contorts itself into a bluesy yowl. It’s not his voice that you’ll hear first on the album, however; it’s the fuzzy bass guitar notes played by Stefanie Drootin-Senseney, the other half of the husband-and-wife duo.
Drootin-Senseney’s bass brings both a rhythm and grittiness that serve as building blocks for the band’s instrumentation. Big Harp explores a variety of sounds in the album, from the aforementioned folk and blues, to the upbeat and harmonized “Stand Outside in the Snow.”
It’s easy to only focus on Senseney’s deep, masculine voice. Its classic folk quality remains the most consistent sound—aside from Drootin-Senseney’s bass—in “Chain Letters,” tying everything together. It can mislead listeners into thinking the album is less exploratory than it is.
As such, the pace can appear to trudge along sluggishly. Giving a little more attention, you will discover something much louder and quicker. And walking at the speed of the more deliberate tracks, you will find moments of catharsis—a dirty guitar solo, an unhinged scream.
Big Harp puts itself on the level of modern alternative folk artists like Bright Eyes and M. Ward with “Chain Letters” while finding their own unique voice.
“Really I’d like [our music] to sound like Leonard Cohen fronting The Pixies. It doesn’t though. Maybe a little,” Senseney says on the band’s website.
I’d say in spirit, at least, they’ve nailed their goal.

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Leonard Cohen meets The Pixies