It’s been a long time coming, but the world has finally readied itself for Little May. Having toured the world, delivering spellbinding performances to audiences with their harmony-laden melodies and well-beyond-their-years songwriting, this week has finally seen the release of their debut album For The Company.
This is the kind of album you can listen to on a daily basis. Produced by The National‘s Aaron Brooking Dessner, it is a demanding, haunting and thoroughly beautiful 11-track offering (plus bonus track, Hide, from self-titled 2014 EP). It’s easy to see why they’ve been selected to support bands like Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, and The Flaming Lips, and why they’ve been picked up by a growing number of overseas festivals. The songwriting on For The Company suggests the kind of talent and drive of a band well on their way through a sustained, successful career – perhaps an indication that Little May are here to stay.
The album kicks off with Cicadas, and from the opening guitars, delicately strum beneath string layers, we begin to get an idea of what’s unfolding ahead. The vocals have that immediate emotive quality that grabs hold of your heartstrings and tugs them around your chest with little remorse. The harmonies on this record are absolutely perfect, and with such talented singers it’s easy to see why the production puts them at the very front of the tracks.
The album was recorded in a converted church in upstate New York, and mixed in a Brooklyn garage. Of Dessner’s input, the band have said that “Aaron captured the heart of what we are about, and we couldn’t be more thankful.”
The vocals are absolutely sublime, and there’s just as much brilliance and carefully-crafted production in the instrumental and rhythmic layers, building unique, expansive atmospheres on a minute scale – each track is its own world, connected by recurring themes, like that brooding-but-building rhythm that we’re accustomed to seeing from The National. Second track Sold dances back and forth in the chorus, mixed vocals swirling in our ears, building to an upbeat clap-a-long bridge. There is a bittersweet element to all of Little May’s music, but Sold in particular tricks you into smiling when you’re supposed to be sad. The borderline staccato delivery of the line, “I’m a fool please put me back together on your own,” is a simple sentence – but with that emotional delivery, it’s incredibly powerful.
Lead single Home reminds us again of what a perfect pairing Dessner’s production and Little May is. The thudding snare drum, overridden by electric keys reminds us again that Little May’s influences are worn well and truly on their sleeves, but no one would accuse them of being derivative as they’re just so good at what they do. I spoke of maturity earlier in Little May’s songwriting, and Home exemplifies that perfectly. Some artists are inclined to jam pack their songs full of words, so much so that the intrinsic meaning and emotion can be lost, but Little May dance the fine line of knowing exactly how much to say, and saying it succinctly and definitively. Never afraid of repetition, they allow the song and the lyrics to breathe, displaying the confidence in their music. There is no insecurity in Little May’s music. Vulnerability yes, but they are always in control and show us exactly how much they want to.
On Seven Hours, Little May reminds us that they possess all of the good qualities of artists like First Aid Kit, Daughter and Sharon Van Etten. The controlled pitch of the vocals takes the listener on a journey of ups and downs, with fuzzed-out guitars perfectly accompanying the falsetto harmonies.
Remind Me shows us a rockier edge, with sudden guitars and heart-pumping drum beat. With such a variety of talent in one band, Little May are able to manipulate their sound to fit any style, any tempo.
The inclusion of Hide, originally off their 2014 EP is a fitting way to measure the band’s progress. Their 2014 EP showed real promise, and For The Company delivers it. In a mature and thoughtful record, the band show us emotional honesty, thought-provoking lyricism, and masterful production.
For The Company is easily one of the best debut albums of the year. You can purchase the album on iTunes now.