Tying up an early year trifecta of solid releases from Trouble in Mind (along with Salad Boys and Sunwatchers) Olden Yolk sees Quilt’s Shane Butler branch out from his longtime band, though not too awful far. Like Quilt, Olden Yolk deals in a hazy, sun-squinted brand of folk that’s dotted with more than a touch of melancholy, though the record winds up a bit more whimsical than the bulk of Butler’s catalog. Along with his collaborator Caity Shaffer, and a solid rhythm swing behind them, the pair crawl through ‘60s psych-folk caverns and ‘80s UK indie to find their own place in the sun. I’ve likened the band’s first single to Veronica Falls, and over the course of the rest of the album that comparison seems to stand true. Like their UK counterparts they trend towards layered vocals that squeeze a drop of sweetness into the mix, pillowing the harmonies and letting the listener lay back into their gauzy folk with a mix of infatuation and heartache.
VF’s James Hoare would go on to work bittersweet miracles with Ultimate Painting (RIP) and the Butler led tracks here find the two songwriters on similar ground. Though some of the strongest moments on Olden Yolk’s eponymous LP see Shaffer at the helm, her strident vocals finding purchase in the band’s swooning folk like a soft-touch Nico rendered in raspberry shades. The pair have pinned psych swirls and jangle-pop to a post-Velvets rock approach with no lack of charm, then shaded it all in with a heavy brush of country ramble that peeks its head on tracks like “Hen’s Teeth.”
The further down the rabbit hole I tumble with Olden Yolk, the less inclined to want to see the light I become. Each listen unfolds this as one of the strongest debuts from a band in quite some time – crackling with life, crinkled with emotion and littered with pinprick hooks that linger long after the needle clicks to a close. It’s a record that feels lived in, sounding every bit like a band that’s just now finding their stride rather than an opening shot from newcomers. If this is where they start, then one has to wonder where they go from here.
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