Album Review: Good Old War’s “Come Back as Rain”
Michele | On 15, Mar 2012
The music industry is saturated with male folk/rock bands these days- Ivan and Alyosha, Iron and Wine, Chris and Thomas, and Joseph Arthur are just a few in the long list. But there’s just something about Philly-born folk trio Good Old War that doesn’t make me dismiss them as just another addition to the surfeit of folk acts in today’s indie rock scene. Composed of Keith Goodwin, Tim Arnold, and Daniel Schwartz, the band churned out another gem of a record that was released on March 6th- Come Back as Rain.
The group really started turning the heads of music bloggers and journalists when they released their self-titled second album in 2010. Their single from that album, the introspective and raggedly honest “My Own Sinking Ship”, seemed to have flown fairly high as well amongst fans and critics. They performed at the World Cafe for XPN’s Free at Noon series on Friday March 2nd, and shortly thereafter started a tour in Knoxville, TN. They will end up back in their hometown of Philadelphia on April 27th at Union Transfer for the penultimate performance of their tour.
Staying in the same vein of intricate acoustic guitar licks and well-blended vocal harmony, the band has drawn more on their pop sensibility for this latest release. They seem to capture the same level of energy in the studio as they do live, which can be felt in the intensity of their shared singing and playing. The caliber of their musicianship is due in large part to their chemistry- the three musicians just mesh well together vocally and instrumentally.
The three tracks that jump out at my eardrums the most are “Amazing Eyes”, “Better Weather”, and “Calling Me Names”- the poppy-est of the bunch. A bit of Jason Mraz or Eric Hutchinson’s songwriting style can be heard in the latter two, which seem to instantly stick but are still rooted in delicate guitar-strumming and creative lyrics. GOW’s more folksy tunes on this album just don’t have the same punch in terms of chord progression and vocal melody, but that’s not to say that they’re not worthy of ipod-play. The clacking percussion in “Over and Over”, the first track, definitely reels you in but takes a backseat to the three previously mentioned songs.
“Amazing Eyes” is particularly unique partially because of its wordplay with “half right” and “half light” in the first verse with the line “Is this wrong or only half right, you want me gone but I stay the night. When I see you in the half light, it feels so fine…” The other aspect of the song that stands out is in the bridge where the trio dissolves into Beatles-esque harmony atop major seventh chords, something not wildly popular in the world of indie/pop rock. It was prevalent in Joni Mitchell and Carol King’s songs, evoking a bit of tonal ambiguity and a low-grade jazzy sound.
I like that a weather theme pervades certain songs in Come Back as Rain. It appears in “Better Weather” (obviously), an upbeat singalong number that naturally evokes sunshine with its optimistic chorus and inter-verse guitar melody. It also comes up in “Touch the Clouds”, still bubbly but a touch more wistful in melodic contour. “After the Party” involves some showers as well, as in the line “We only like the rain, when the flowers are dying…” The motif of weather seems to occur frequently in pop songs for some reason, like in Patty Griffin’s “Rain”, the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun”, and Fountains of Wayne’s “Valley Winter Song”, to name just a few in thousands.
Whether easily metabolized by the ear or slightly more complex in melody, GOW’s Come Back as Rain will surely win hearts with its sweet fusion of harmonies and artfully-performed guitar work.
Check out the band’s website for a list of tour dates: