The whole Alt Country/Alt Folk scene has been flirting with the mainstream for a number of years, near enough since the start of this decade, but with Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver battling for supremacy in most of the music media’s end of year polls, 2008 definitely seems to be The Year That Folk Broke.
From one man in a Wisconsin cabin, the live Bon Iver experience is augmented to bring it up to a four-piece band and, depending on the song, two drummers, two guitarists, keyboards, bass and all four providing vocals. Starting with Flume, the quieter and more introspective sound of the album For Emma, Forever Ago is completely and instantly transformed into a folk Wall-of-Sound. This effect is used throughout and this is best heard on The Wolves (Acts I and II) where the ever-building song crescendo reaches a sparkling and startling cacophony, further enhanced by the audience supplying the “what might have been lost” refrain.
And it’s good, it’s very good, sometimes it’s sublime, sometimes it’s breathtaking. But it’s maybe not quite as good as the audience reaction would let you believe. The crowd reaction maintains a fervent level throughout, but to the point where it’s too frenzied, too hysterical, over-zealous to the extreme and to the point of uncomfortableness. Yes, it’s good, yes it’s very good but it’s not THAT good. It’s not standing ovation good, which the audience provides at the end of the encore. It is still one guy with one 9-song album that clocks in at less than 38 minutes and a just-released four song EP. It’s a promising start, a very promising start, but it’s not the Second Coming.
Mckisko supported and whilst her use of multi-track good looping of vocals, piano and melodica and the use of drums in some of her songs is used to good effect and provides some depth to the sound, some of her solo piano songs are just too dry, overwrought and not that memorable.