The women have been firmly on top in the world of music for the last few years with Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga and Adele all having periods of domination. Female fronted bands are a different matter though, with only Paramore a notable exception in a poorly represented field. Enter from the folk-rock corner, The Straylings; the duo of striking Bahraini/Austrian singer songwriter Dana Zeera and guitarist Oliver Drake.
Entertainment on Foreign Grounds is their debut album, after rave reviews for their first EP from the likes of Steve Lamacq. Zeera’s vocals are an interesting mix of Florence Welch and Kate Bush, although at times you are frustrated by the mystery of the lyrics as you try and understand what she is singing. Having said that, Michael …
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… Stipe’s tendency to garble his words did not stop R.E.M becoming the world’s biggest band for a time.
The lyrical mysticism maybe intentional as there is a psychedelic feel laced across the album, particularly the likes of Carver’s Kicks and The Saguaro. There is a rawness to the sound too, which may again be intentional. It would be good if even with a bigger budget The Straylings stuck with this earthier feel, because it is part of the album’s charm.
There are hints of early All About Eve on Sleep Shapes, with its haunting guitar loops over hollow drums, while the more sparse and barren piano of Marie & The Dusty Lands displays a gentler side. Arcadian Moon stands out for the wrong reasons, with the vocal not really matching the music, causing Zeera’s vocal ticks to become irritating. On To Lay Down Roots they get the mix right, creating a beautifully haunting feel.
Producers Sam Bell (R.E.M and Regina Spektor) and John O’Mahony (Alberta Cross) have given The Straylings’ debut a surprisingly refreshing sound. The right balance is struck between spaciousness and swirling guitars and feedback. If you knew what they were singing about the experience might even be more pleasurable!