Sophomore slump? Nope! “The Fourth Wall” Review

ImageThe Vespers, a female-fronted folk / bluegrass band from Nashville, have become pretty popular – which is impressive, noting that after two full LPs, they’re still indie. Their first album, Tell Your Mama was temporarily released for free on NoiseTrade, and it was a solid debut. Word of mouth brought them quite a few fans, and they released The Fourth Wall April of last year.

Now, the problem a lot bands run into when they start out is a ‘sophomore slump.’ That’s when a band pours all of their content and talent into their debut, and their second album ends up really bad in comparison. Thankfully, The Fourth Wall doesn’t fall into this category. Before listening to The Vespers, I didn’t really like folk music, and now I have them to thank for letting me enjoy it. They’ve improved on their already good formula and made it an excellent one.

Lyrical content has vastly improved since their debut. Tell Your Mama had good messages in some places, such as: “I pray The Lord your wounds to heal,” or the message in the title track, but many of the lyrics were vague, or in some cases, downright strange, most notably the ones in “Melatonin Rum.”

“Two linked hands make toodleroos
But gamma rays can make them too
Oh, The Taming of the Shrew
Have you seen it? No. Have you?”

However, The Fourth Wall has excellent lyrics. My favorite lyrics on the album come from “Got No Friends.”

“Well I got no friends today,
And I wonder if tomorrow will be the same,
But I know, no matter what I do,
Jesus, I will always have a friend in you!”

Simple reminders of truths like these are found throughout the whole album. The Vespers aren’t really a band that leaves their words open to interpretation – their message is crystal clear. They’re one of the few artists talented enough to be up front about the Gospel, yet not be cheesy or boring-sounding about it, which is refreshing.

Musically, the band has also improved. The instrumentals, which are handled by every member of the band, are very diverse. Nearly every song has a different combination of instruments, from the banjo to the piano to the ukelele. It may sound weird, but it just works, especially in instrument-heavy songs like “Footprints In The Snow” and “Jolly Robber.” The production quality is also upped from the last album, and is impressive, noting that they’re still not signed to a record label.

The strongest part of their first album makes a stronger return here: the amazing vocals. Callie and Phoebe Cryar’s voices are great on their own, but together, they complement each other amazingly well. On their debut, they were very quiet, even relaxing, but it’s really nice to hear them showing their full vocal chops in addition to their softer side. It’s hard to describe their voices and how good they sound, you’ll just have to hear them yourself.

Best Songs:

“Flower Flower” is the catchiest and happiest song ever. This issue is not debatable. It’s that happy.

“Grinnin’ In Your Face” features only Callie’s vocals, a cool stomp-clap rhythm and a deliciously raw and southern-y (I don’t think that’s a word) acoustic guitar.

Weakest Songs:

It’s hard to put any song on this album under the category of weak songs, but “Instrument For You” and “Will You Love Me” suffer (mildly) from being forgettable. They’re not bad songs, in fact, they’re pretty good. It’s just that they don’t stand out that much compared to the rest of the album.

Overall Opinion:

Overall, this album is excellent, and I definitely recommend it. 10 out of 10 stars.

If you’re not totally sold yet, check out this sampler from NoiseTrade.com. It features two songs from Tell Your Mama, three from The Fourth Wall and one Live ‘un (yup, that’s what it’s called). Plus, these songs are yours. To keep. Forever. For free.

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