Black Wren (M. Francis McCarthy and Jennifer L. Coward) have quietly emerged from the musical ether with a fully-formed debut album of solid songwriting, quiet electronica and vintage-inspired sounds.
While the approach is gentle, there are harder elements at play too, with treated, robotic vocals and effects on It’s Not Who I Was and Pure Imagination, although the latter song mixes charming spoken-word samples and dreamy melodies.
‘Black Wren’ has one foot in downbeat/electronica, and another in piano balladry and lovelorn, melancholic lyrics, while moments of whimsy drop in and out of the album. However, the darkness and sadness in Coward’s lyrics are almost overwhelming, pulled back from the brink by the duo’s lovely textures, and Coward’s intimate, sensitive vocals.
The album’s mix of modern and vintage blends well, and creates lovely moments, but when it focuses solely on an electronic edge, some of the magic is lost – What I Repeat (in particular) loses mystique, and without warmer textures of piano and un-treated voice.
Black Wren’s blend of vintage and modern elements makes for very seductive music, and if you wipe the dust off, the shimmering melodies and strong bones of these songs reveal themselves. Hunt out ‘Black Wren,’ it’s a gem.