As an English folk trio of sisters from Hertfordshire, England, The Staves have come a long way since Dead & Born & Grown back in 2012. With a grittier and more powerful direction, they return on their hallowing yet precious new record, If I Was. Allmusic.com journalist James Christopher Monger described them as:
“clear, confident, and classy. The Staves (along with their producers) know that their ability to harmonize (or just sing in perfect, familial unison) is their calling card, and the instrumentation is calibrated according to that knowledge, allowing their vocals to sit fairly high in the mix.”
With the help of singer/songwriter, Justin Vernon, a.k.a. Bon Iver, producing the entire record, the trio were in perfect position to detail and present their songs of heartbreak, sadness, anger, and all things Bon Iver & The Staves are known for. With song titles like, “Blood I Bled,” No Me, No You, No More,” “Damn It All,” “Sadness Don’t Own Me,” The Staves go darker than they ever had before.
The sound is huge. Their vocals bled perfectly together as they rupture through the headphones. The dynamics go from soft and precious to exploding in a fit of anger and power. The lyrics are powerful as well, and familiar, yet they’re also personal, in a sense that the songs are not for us, but for them. The artwork, three sisters, backs turned, walking away from us; they’re the center of attention, the subject: not us. Amazing blend and vocal precision aside, the whoa’s and power of the vocals are relentless, and at some times a bit harsh and overwhelming, leaving us wanting a little break of First Aid Kit-like simple harmonies. But The Staves are like an emotional army, and whether we’re to see as much of a huge, sometimes overwhelming, sound wall of vocals in the future, If I Was isn’t anything if not a step in the right direction.