STEALING SHEEP – Into The Diamond Sun (Heavenly)

If you cast your mind back to early 2011 you might recall my positive reviews of two EPs by Northern folk trio Stealing Sheep. At last, after an interminable eighteen month wait, comes the debut album, and not only that but an album of completely new songs. The first thing I noticed on hearing their new material is that they seemed to have picked up on the new wave of all-female bands coming through recently, such as Warpaint and Wild Flag, and the out and out folk of their previous work has been usurped by a more rock approach to their songs. ‘The Garden’ is a case in point, with its stripped back production and rock guitar, but it still features the exquisite harmonies of the girls. Latest single release, ‘Shut Eye’, may sound familiar from its use in trailing the last series of Hollyoaks, but even without that exposure it should do well as an introduction to the band’s new sound. Partly acapella and partly rhythmically experimental, it is a great single and will hopefully point some people towards its parent album. ‘Rearrange’ is another track which uses rhythm as a basis for the girls to deliver some subtle harmonies in the verses – very much reminding me of Scream And Dance from the 80’s (and if you remember them then you are lying!). ‘White Lies’ has some simplistic lyrics laid over a minimal guitar and drums backing, but it also boasts a catchy tune and so is eminently enjoyable. By now you will have got a handle on the band’s sound, which is now much more rhythm-based, with handclaps and tambourine enhancing the drums, and guitar used sparing to hint at the tune. The main ingredient is still the girl’s voices, which blend together to produce an instrument all of their own, and which they put to good use on all the tracks. ‘Genevieve’ adds a bit of pop nous to this mix to create a jaunty piece of indie-pop which could well be considered as the next single, while ‘Circles’ and ‘Gold’ have enough twists and turns to keep your attention. ‘Tangled Up In Stars’ is another great track where the band keep the instrumentation to a minimum, but the harmonies and melody make you forget this anomaly and you still enjoy the song. The closing piece really is a departure for the band – or any band, for that matter – in that it is a nine-minute folk-symphony, seemingly made up of three of four different songs all dove-tailed together, and ending with a solo piano piece. Weird, but strangely compelling, and if that is a direction the band want to take, then it’s fine by me. I would say yet another album with limited appeal, but if you tried the band after my reviews, or are even remotely into the sound of Warpaint or Wild Flag then you owe it to yourself to hear how we Brits can do it just as well.
The Garden