Private Eleanor | Sweethearting (The Beechfields)

cd_eleanor.jpgBefore more words are said, I must confess to having a bit of a soft spot for dramatic romanticism in song.







Who’s a sucker for sad and sweet poppy indie rock with boy/girl harmonies? If you’re like me, you’re raising your hand. This bias, as well as the pretty and textural layering of vocals and instrumentation, sets the stage for my immediate interest in Sweethearting, Baltimore’s Private Eleanor’s fourth full-length album.

The first song, "Two by Two," starts out a bit dramatically and goes into a lovely harmonization between vocalists Austin Stahl and Marian Glebes. Before more words are said, I must also confess to having a bit of a soft spot for dramatic romanticism in song. In addition to the vocals, the prominent use of bells is a nice touch. Hurrah for vibraphones, I say. I am reminded strongly of Ida and a less dancy Stars.

In the second song, "Weeds," Stahl takes the lead and leaves Glebes with backing vocals. My interest begins to fade. Something falls a little flat when Stahl flies solo. Not that his voice isn’t pleasant; there is just something to be said about the fullness that comes with the addition of Glebes’ vocals. This is probably my least favorite track on the album. The introductory guitar riff is questionable and just doesn’t have the smooth weaving of layers that resonate throughout most of the album (but, hark, is that a cowbell in the distance?). I generally stick out albums as a whole when listening, passively ignoring a song rather than pressing the skip button, but this track would be skipped—or, in this modern world of iTunes, I could handily uncheck the box and be done with it.

On "Vladimir and Gabriel," the sound I enjoyed on the first track steps back up from its little hiatus (although not at its strongest) and does a decent job of sticking around for most of the album.

As someone who has lived in St. Louis for almost ten years, I get excited when we’re mentioned anywhere. (Our crazy weather made the national news? What’s that you say? We have the highest crime rate in the nation? Woo!) The seventh song, the sweet and melodramatic "Temporary Homes," is a little bit about St. Louis. I got a little excited when I first heard the lines: "St. Louis welcomed us with a garden and welcome doors/ And you said it reminded you of Baltimore."

The main key to Private Eleanor’s success is in the blending vocalization of Stahl and Glebes. Secondary to this is the instrumentation, delicate and gracious at its best. Without both these elements, Sweethearting loses hold on the listener. While not perfect, this is a nice album. I like to drink my morning coffee to it in winter. Or maybe that’s just what I’m doing right now. B | Jaffa Aharonov

RIYL: Ida, Stars

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