It’s always a shame to see any talented band call it quits but it’s a guaranteed eventuality, and you can only hope that a band do enough in their time together to make it all worthwhile. If Tawny Peaks hadn’t already with their excellent self-titled debut then they do on its follow-up In Silver River, which sees them bow out on a high. If you like your music emotional, brooding and accomplished you’ll almost certainly like this.
In Silver River is a relatively bittersweet experience, and the knowledge that nothing will follow it somehow bolsters the contents. Sure, there isn’t exactly a shortage of bands that could be lumped into the ‘emo revival’ category and take their place, but Tawny Peaks are / were better than the majority of them. Their final release is half an hour or so of immaculately crafted indie- infused emo, taking influence from the likes of American Football and pairing delicate intricate melodies with deliberately lacklustre lead vocals which suit the reflective lyrics. Like I said, there isn’t a shortage of bands that sound like Tawny Peaks, but even if their sound is familiar it’s still very good. Take opener Go Ask Arthur, which drifts on breezy guitars, threatening to pick up the pace but instead seems content to let a gentle current carry it forwards, bringing in the vocals of Molly Grund to provide a singsong delivery which complements the drowsy nature of Charlie Perris’ leads as the two sing ‘I guess we gambled when we spoke / The words get scrambled in my throat / So go ask Arthur he won’t mind / Ask him why love’s made us blind’ over flickering drums before fading away. In Silver River is suitably low-fi, calm and collected, and in a similar way to artists like Bag Of Bones it doesn’t have to necessarily go out of its way to affect a listener, taking them on a journey without always pulling the strings. Dreamy soundscapes drift as vocals cruise and it makes for a warm, comforting bed of noise, with a few songs providing an exception. Second selection Wasting Space is notably more upbeat, opening with thicker guitars which persist when melody enters the fold alongside memorable lyrics (‘There must be something out of place if I’d rather be floating in space / Sweet dreams on Saturn’s ring lightyears from a living thing’), and the song carries a bounce that contrasts it’s self-doubting subject matter. Tawny Peaks know how to write a catchy song, and there are a few on In Silver River, and an equal number of creeping, subdued entries like Caught Fingers Crossed and Righting The Writ, both of which plod along but rarely lose any of their charm. Granted, some tracks are more memorable than others, and at times Tawny Peaks fall into their emo niche all too willingly, with a few songs sounding slightly similar as a result. Given the quality here it’s a small criticism, but you won’t find many songs here that differ massively from what you’d expect, or even from their eponymous debut record. In comparison to its predecessor In Silver River sounds more mature and composed, and it doesn’t sound as harsh (if Kinsella-brand emo can be considered harsh), often meandering but always meandering in the right direction.
The second half of In Silver River begins with sixth and shortest track A Broken Spoke, which is delightful as it unfolds, beginning mellow and ending cheery as Perris asks ‘Did you happen to notice me as I peddled by and glanced your way?’ astride a bike of perky instrumentation. It’s followed by the title track, which is much gentler as Perris and Grund sing over a lonely guitar before the song picks up, adding layers and developing a darker tone which still sounds effortlessly cool whilst featuring some of the records better lyrics. In Silver River ends with its longest track in Confessor’s Kingdom, which is also one of its best, holding back initially and then dazzling as it softly unravels to dancing guitars and tiptoeing vocals. Around the midpoint the track escalates, shifting and picking up momentum, spiralling downwards as the same lines repeat before the record ends with a minute of impeccable, serenading instrumentation. It’s a solid closer, and it rounds off a record which is also an ideal length; In Silver River is long enough that it doesn’t seem to end prematurely yet short enough that it doesn’t begin to drift aimlessly and grow tiresome as the genre often can.
I listened to In Silver River walking home from work before sitting down to write this and I noticed a few things (probably) worth mentioning. If you don’t live in the UK – or do but don’t go outside – we’ve enjoyed some weather over the last few days which has been pretty great by our normal standards. I was walking home and listened to Tawny Peaks’ latest record and it was a cool breeze on a warm day, with A Broken Spoke eliciting a smile and Confessor’s Kingdom making me appreciate the little things I normally wouldn’t notice as my feet glide over concrete. Maybe next week, when the weathers inevitably returned to normal and people have swapped their vests for their windbreakers I’ll be riding the bus home, staring out the window and reflecting as I tend to do on shitty days. Perhaps then Wasting Space will set my mind wandering and I’ll be thinking about how peaceful living in space might actually be whilst the guy sat behind me takes no shame in blasting out the new Rihanna single, which he probably thinks is a postmodern masterpiece (stop punishing me). What I suppose I’m getting at, in a roundabout sort of way, is that In Silver River is one of those emo records that caters to a bunch of moods incredibly well – it’s triumphant yet troubled, reserved yet rousing, and it finds that balance that I look for in records of this nature and love once uncovered, sound-tracking the good and bad days equally well.
It may be the last record they release, but Tawny Peaks have ended with a collection of songs which sounds surprisingly emphatic given its chosen genre. In Silver River is an incredibly calming record which shows the occasional burst of energy to keep things interesting. I’m selfish enough to want more but smart enough to take it for what it is – In Silver River is a record well worth soaking in, and whilst doing so I couldn’t help but be thankful that Tawny Peaks ever started making music in the first place, because their closer will see them remember for all the right reasons. You can stream and download it below through Bandcamp and if, unlike me, you live in the States the band are about to embark on a final tour, with dates on their Facebook. If you’re reading this after July then you missed out, but the music is still there to enjoy, and it’s well worth a listen.