Richard Olson & The Familiars


Without a doubt one of my favorites from last year was Hollow Heart from The Hanging Stars. The record found the UK band folding more styles into their sound, long dominated by Country and Americana. That eclecticism is at the heart of the solo debut from the band’s Richard Olson as well. On his new record as Richard Olson & The Familiars, Richard explores new territory, but calls back to his folk haunts in The Eighteenth Day of May as well as nods to newer directions from The Hanging Stars. Where the Stars were fond of aughts-era psych-pop with a heavy, heady swirl, The Familiars is an airier affair. The eponymous album is steeped in ‘70s folk, bolstered with the kind of production that wouldn’t feel out of place on Bryter Layter or Astral Weeks.

Strings and brass circle the album, adding a draped grandeur to songs like “A Thousand Violins,” and “Fall Into My Arms.” The album does dive a bit towards the psych-pop as it opens up, especially on centerpiece “Little Heart,” which blends a dose of sunshine with gauzy production, feeling like it might have been something worked up in parallel with Hollow Heart, but just sightly askew from the scope of the album. Similarly, “I”m A Butterfly” wields twang and stacked harmonies with a familiar ease that crops up in Olson’s oeuvre. The album works well as a companion piece to the Stars’ efforts — tributaries and deeper genre dives into ideas that were more subtly sprinkled throughout singles from the last year. Though, even without an ounce of familiarity with his central gig or past projects, the Familiars’ record is an welcoming collection by one of the UK’s most interesting voices.

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