All the best things come in threes: primary colours, Stooges, blind mice, triangles, races… you get the idea. There is even a “rule of three” which suggests that when things come in threes, they are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. That is certainly the case for sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor, or The Staves to you and me.
If I Was is the second album for this Watford trio. After the success of their first album Dead & Born & Grown, they toured with Bon Iver in the US and developed a friendship that grew into Justin Vernon producing this album in the idyllic setting of his remote Wisconsin studio. The result is a truly beautiful album.
It’s fiercer than their first record – their confidence has grown and they have deepened their connection to their unique collective voice. This is evident especially in the frankly anthemic songs like ‘Teeth White’, where they have gathered pace. It’s a real belt out tune with a ‘70s vibe about being true to yourself:
“I got my teeth white/And my jeans tight/I got my hair long/And it’s still wrong”
Similarly with ‘Black & White’, it draws you in and builds up, almost like you can feel the song inside you and then it bursts out. You ride the wave of the jagged, angry guitar riffs:
“Black and white/It isn’t right/To hold me down/And bleed me dry”
This is in part due to the production and the instruments used on this album – it’s more of a full band than the intimate, acoustic feel of Dead & Born & Grown.
Then there is the album’s melancholy side. ‘No Me, No You, No More’ – the title speaks for itself – the sadness of an ending, of no longer being part of something, of being “tethered” to someone but having to let go.
“You don’t need me/So I sit myself back on the floor/And I’ll wait there/Cos I can’t go out no more”
The most incredible part of The Staves is their voices, their harmonies are stunning, you listen enraptured. In songs like ‘Sadness Don’t Own Me’ they even sing polyphonically. You can only assume that this strength is a result of their sisterhood, their tri-connectivity really comes through in the music. Their harmonies work so well, you can feel their closeness, how they have grown together and continue to do so.
The “difficult second album” cliché certainly doesn’t apply to The Staves, and if the rule of three applies, bring on the third!