There’s a new sound on the Whitehorse folk recording scene: the august arrival.
Formed in 2009, the band band consists of Sarah MacDonald on vocals, her husband Phil MacDonald on bass, Michael Vandermark on guitars and Dorothy Williams on violin. Together they form an acoustic-driven folk band with a unique sound.
On their debut EP, skyline goodbyes, that sound is mesmerizing. Sarah MacDonald’s vocals are haunting, sad, wise and uplifting all at once, while the music builds through each song, into a high crescendo.
It’s music you can get lost in, floating on the surface of each gentle melody until it suddenly stops and drops you back into reality. It’s a sound you can’t imagine coming from just four people.
Lifting is a perfect example of this. Lyrically, it’s a love song for the emotionally exhausted. As MacDonald sings, “You ask me/If I want to stay/I’m too damn tired/to think of walking away”, the band begins, first with Vandermark’s soft acoustic guitar.
Then, as she continues, vocalizing “Lifting”, MacDonald is joined by a lap steel and some minimal drums, until the music suddenly drops off and the song ends, all too soon.
This pattern is repeated in “Through it all”, where the entire band, including backing vocals and violin, join in just before the song fades, so suddenly, you wonder how that song could have lasted almost five minutes.
You want these songs to be longer because they deserve to be longer.
The lyrics are sad, lonely and laced with a wisdom that comes from experience without being bitter. I’m tempted to call this “sadcore” but that’s too trite for this band.
The opening track, “The sun too will die”, a song about the impermanence of relationship (“The house you made love in/Has cracks in the wood”), reveals a kind of comfort, advising its listener: “Only the big storms/Bring life with the tides”.
As folk music, it’s different from what I’ve heard in the Yukon music scene before. While other artists lean toward folk-rock, country, quirky lyric-driven indie folk, the august arrival creates a melodic soundscape, like The Cowboy Junkies, Sufjan Stevens or The National.
The group’s EP, skyline goodbyes is available on iTunes, CDBaby and bandcamp.com. The august arrival is also playing at the Whitehorse United Church on Thursday, October 20, at 6:30 as the opening act for Vancouver’s Folk Thief.
Outstanding Tracks: “Lifting” and “Through it all”.