Luke & Emily‘s Songs to Remember Vol. 1 is a short EP that crams five fully-fleshed-out tunes into 10 minutes. The acoustic-laden songs are all sonic interpretations of texts drawn literally from the Bible, with titles that reflect the passage of the lyrics. Christians will notice that these are all “greatest hits” of scripture, from the opening of the Bible (“Genesis 1:1-5”) to doctrinal pillars (“Romans 8:1-2,” “John 1:1-5”) to encouragements in living daily life (“Philippians 4:11b-13,” “Ecclesiastes 3:11a”).
Musically there’s two milieus here: a thread of sacred music that is elegant, reverent, and traditional (check that flute and cello!) contrasted against a very Welcome Wagon-esque jaunty folk-pop. The sacred tunes (“Genesis,” “Ecclesiastes,” “Romans”) are beautiful, easily ready for “special music” sections of traditional worship services. Meanwhile, “John” and “Phillipians” are 100% ready to go for the contemporary service (usually a couple hours later on Sunday morning).
“John 1:1-5” (displayed above; we’re going old-school with an MP3 embed/download!) is particularly excellent; Luke & Emily bring their vocal duet style to bear on a chipper sing-a-long that is almost certainly the easiest way to remember and ponder the complex theological passage. The chorus (“The light shines in the darkness / and the darkness has not overcome it”) points squarely at the crux of the passage, while the intro/outro (“In the beginning was the Word / and the Word was with God / And the Word was God”) offer unvarnished theological complexity in a fun way. They also manage to make the cello and flute sound quirky and charming instead of somber. It’s great!
If you want a small-but-strong EP to fit into a mellow playlist, help you memorize scripture, whet your appetite for more Luke & Emily music, or scratch an itch for things near to The Welcome Wagon’s idiosyncratic approach, this is very worth your time.
Good Weld by Luke and Emily is a great folk-pop album that also happens to include some New Orleans Second Line/dixie-land jazz in it, because why not? That’s how you kick things up a notch, kids.
The first three tracks are strong folk-pop entries, good for people who wanted the Civil Wars to be a little less intense or the Weepies to be a little less sad or Jenny and Tyler to be more like the Low Anthem. (Come to think of it, naming your band The Civil Wars should have been a sign from the beginning that it wasn’t going to end well. But I digress.)
After “Scars for Scars” sets the tone for the record as a meaningful folk-pop work, the fantastic title track appears, all soaring distant trumpets, train-track percussion, and vulnerable male vocals. It’s very moody (love it) until the midway point, when the female vocals come in with an enthusiastic fiddle. The next chorus is an excellent duet. The lyrics are a love song about how a good weld is stronger than either of the pieces of the metal it joins—perfect folk-pop fare. “Rob and Julianna” (by Luke and Emily) is another love song, this time in story-song fashion and featuring an accordion and piano. It’s similarly emotional (still love it).
But then things take a big shift in “When You Look at Me” that shows Luke and Emily aren’t a one-trick pony. Their next love song (sense the theme here) is a dixieland jazz romp, complete with vintage-styled horns and banjo. They follow up “When You Look at Me” with instrumental dixieland jazz piece “You Make Me Want to Praise”, because if you’ve already got the musicians there, why not?
“Abel” introduces religious imagery that was hinted at in “You Make Me Want to Praise,” while also bringing in more trumpets, gentle folk-stomp percussion, lovely strings, and Luke’s compelling vocal performances. “Back to Love” is a strong tune of domestic life capped with a great vocal melody. “Thank My God” is a tune that fans of Jenny and Tyler will love lyrically and melodically.
Good Weld is a strong folk-pop record that has a lot to offer: it’s fun, it’s well-arranged, and it’s interesting in its choices. It’s just flat-out compelling.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.