If Heavy on the Strawberries were releasing their eponymous debut album a few years ago reviews would have started with a comparison to Fleet Foxes. Sadly, because of the crossover success and embarrassing backlash against Mumford, that’ll be where people start when they review an indie folk act, but it’s Fleet Foxes we think is the yardstick here; back to them in a moment.
The name Heavy on the Strawberries conjures up images of summer excess, which leads to a surprise when you play the music: the band play just acoustic guitar, mandolin and cajon, a Peruvian percussion instrument. This means there’s no drums (or banjo) and gives an interesting range of sounds: the first three tracks manage to sound sad and mournful very easily, but move to a more upbeat sound later on (well, until the lyrics kick in and take things down again.) The vocals are suitably rough but not hoarse, a sort of stubble rather than a thick beard, and there are some lovely harmonies, at time reminiscent of Fleet Foxes, and in the last track of western classical choral music.
The general impression is you’re listening to a folk act heavy on the emotion. And yes, there’s no getting away from it: the name conjures up images of fun and sun, but the mood of the album is emotional, at times fraught. This is good, just surprising, and the beauty of the album is it will work on a hot day, when the sounds go well with heat, tiredness and equally well in the winter, when the same sounds go well with cold and wanting to hole up. It’s just that on both occasions you’ll be touched and affected rather than put in the mood for a dance.
This isn’t a folk act trying to slipstream, it’s a band who’ve spent two years putting together a delicate and considered record which strips back the genre’s new popular image and instead gives us an intimate experience. Put aside some time and listen to this. 7/10