Music Critic Julia Van Egmond reviews The Staves’ latest album full of poppy tunes and brilliant harmonies

Written by Julia van Egmond
Hi! My name is Julia and I am one of Redbrick's music critics. I am especially interested in songs that make a societal / political contribution. My favourite artist is Ben Howard and my favourite song of his is "The Defeat". Have a listen and I hope you enjoy my song selections!
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Images by Korng Sok

On Good Woman, the three folk indie sisters explore more poppy tunes while staying true to their roots. With their angelic voices, The Staves delve into female insecurity, nostalgia, toxic relationships and staying true to yourself.

The album starts off with ‘Good Woman’ which is about the inner worries women around the world have. The Staves raise questions such as: What is a good woman? Am I a good woman? Once the lyrics begin, the song relies on a deep bass and the drums quickly follow. The Staves’ angelic voices form the back instruments during the chorus in which they sing: ‘I am a good woman / Be kind / I am a good woman’. They argue that the expectations placed on women are merely a ‘game’: ‘Erased in the light, I feel like a fool / ‘Cause a game isn’t fun if I never know the rules’. The best feature of this song is in its bridge: The Staves asked their female friends and family to all sing along. All voices have been layered and support each other, signifying that every woman is a good woman and we all support each other.

Feelings of nostalgia are explored in the more poppy songs ‘Best Friend’ and ‘Careful Kid’. In ‘Best Friend’, they reflect on old memories: ‘I can see you’re runnin’ now / You can’t see me / Burnin’ in the back now / Coming down’. The song builds on many instruments such as drums, guitars and tambourines to convey a sense of movement and driving, really taking you into the song while singing: ‘Said you got a new car / Give me a ride home / You could be my best friend’. The following song, ‘Careful Kid’, explores this same sense of nostalgia but from a parental perspective. Instead of reflecting on their own youth, they give their younger selves advice: ‘Be careful, kid / If you’re ready or not, you’re gonna get hit / When you’re looking at yourself, yeah, you’re killing it / Leaving all your friends, picking up your shit’.

‘Paralysed’ starts off beautifully with only a ukulele and one of the sisters singing, resembling a rougher demo with real, honest feelings after a break-up

Highlights of the slower songs are ‘Paralysed’ and ‘Failure’. ‘Paralysed’ starts off beautifully with only a ukulele and one of the sisters singing, resembling a rougher demo with real, honest feelings after a break-up. Midway through, this naturally flows into a fully produced song and the other sisters jump in to support. The lyrics state feelings of self-doubt: I usеd to be magic / I used to be ragе uncontained / I used to be something you made / And in my life, I used to be fine, yeah’. ‘Failure’ builds on these feelings while also containing a lot of anger and irony. Together with the sisters’ angelic voices, this creates a comic effect as the sisters sing: ‘And I’m sorry if I ruined the party / And I’m sorry if all the fuss really killed your vibe / So kind of you to think to remind me / When I got so low, but I really tried’.

Although the album started off with the strong message that every woman is good, the songs following contain a lot of self-doubt. The last song ‘Waiting On Me To Change’ therefore closes the album beautifully with incredible piano support and the lyrics: ‘I’ll change, I’ll change, I’ll change when I want to’. If you identify with these themes and love indie folk / pop music, this album and supporting UK tour is definitely one to watch out for.

Rating: 8/10

Good Woman is available now via Atlantic Records

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