Album Review :
The Gray Havens - Fire and Stone

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Artist: The Gray Havens
Title: Fire and Stone
Label: None
Release Date: 01/06/15
Reviewer: Josh Hamm

Tracklisting:

  1. Inheritance
  2. Songs in the Night
  3. The Stone
  4. Sirens
  5. Jack and Jill, pt.2
  6. Music, They Call Me
  7. Stole My Fame (To: Grace)
  8. Under the Mountain
  9. If the Walls Move
  10. Far Kingdom

I could tell from their first EP, Where Eyes Don’t Go, that The Gray Havens had great potential; I just didn’t realize how quickly they would surpass it. The full length debut of husband/wife duo Dave and Licia Radford, Fire and Stone is a marvelous blend of pop and folk, brimming with catchy hooks, smooth melodies, and lyrics that tell a story as well as a song.

Dave Radford’s smooth voice, which rolls its jazz and big band influences right off the tongue, croons, pleads, laments, and accuses in equal measure. Licia’s dreamy, ethereal vocals play off his, as they each work to bring out the best qualities in each other, all the while delivering compact narratives that manage to pack a punch of emotional and theological weight.

With an a cappela cold opening that brings to mind House of Heroes, before transitioning into a mid temp, jazz-esque vocal highlight, “Sirens” lingers in memory long after the album’s over, as Dave explores the deadly call of the titular mythological creatures, accompanied only by a piano and a few sparse strings. The song follows the course of the heart as it falls into temptation: a cautious knowledge of the rocks ahead, which crumbles against the weight of pleasure promised, as the subtle vocals regale restraint, regret, and the pleasure of sin before launching into a joyful denouement, which echoes the opening, of celebrating joy over empty desires. It’s a song which exemplifies much of what makes The Gray Havens work: approaching a well worn concept with a new eye and attention to telling a story through emotions rather than plot points.

The magnetic pull of songs like “Stole My Fame (To:Grace)” is a testament to their ability to play with genre and style. It fluidly shifts from soulful, punctuated passion to lilting harmony and back again seamlessly. In a way, this is what I truly appreciate about The Gray Havens as a whole. Their music, while far from experimental, refuses to be pigeonholed into any one sound, even as they craft their very own “one sound.” Shifting from light hearted topics (“Jack and Jill, pt.2”) to the deadly serious, (“Sirens”), The Gray Havens is able to maintain the giddy joy of artists still in the honeymoon stage of creation. Their boundless passion for their music is infectious. Whatever mood I’m in when I begin listening to Fire and Stone, by the time I’ve heard “Songs in the Night” and “The Stone,” I’m relaxed and in a state of content happiness.

Overall: The Gray Havens have more than proven their mettle with Fire and Stone. More nuanced and broad in scope than their debut EP, Where Eyes Don’t Go, it carries itself with a humble sense of grandeur – not that the album itself is grand, but a self awareness that it is but a shadow sitting in awe of something far more wonderful than itself. Fire and Stone is a testament to the lasting impact of music laced with joy.

RIYL: The Vocal Few, Jenny and Tyler, The Oh Hellos, The Swell Season,

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