I do not envy folk musicians. When you’re just armed with some moody vocals and an acoustic guitar, it’s hard to stand out against all the other people who also came armed with moody vocals and acoustic guitars. The music such duos produce is usually lovely and well-meaning, the recordings clean and crisp, but like stock photos of sunsets posted on Instagram, it’s rare that one will be remembered more than a few moments after listening.
Unfortunately, Days are Done’s new EP, Closer, is just another stock photo, pleasant enough but hardly memorable. Billed as “Emmy & Adam & A Guitar” the British duo’s music is soulful and charming, but nothing here is anything beyond any pass-the-hat act you can see on any given Friday at your local coffeehouse.
“Never Let You Go” is the breakout song on the album, seemingly custom made for a commercial or the ending montage of a TV show. (It would have killed on Justified back in the day.) The song follows the “Mr. Brightside” formula, second verse, same as the first. But it’s rollicking enough that it should have been the lead single, hummable and passionate in delivery. Instead, they went with “Colours,” which, while drifting on a haunting, Nick Cave-esque melody, is so forgettable that halfway through, you can’t recall what the first verse was. “You” is much the same way—great harmonies, sure, but unremarkable in every other way.
“On My Mind” is lyrically sweet, at least, joining the ranks of the homesick travel song, a lyrical postcard sent home to a much-missed someone. Accented with a dreamy mountain-inspired string section, it would fit perfectly on a Spotify mixtape or the last track on a road trip playlist, a nice way to fade out. But nothing on this album is ever going to be anyone’s New Favorite Song.
Despite the album’s obvious flaws, I almost wish there was more of it. A few more tracks like “Never Let You Go” might have counterbalanced the generic sleepiness of it all. Emmy and Adam show that they’ve got the chops to write a snappy hook and a melody that builds, but in releasing Closer as an EP, the bland-to-smart ratio is 3:1.
Closer is proof positive that Americans don’t have the monopoly on sleepy folk rock. There’s something unfathomably beautiful hidden here, but to the average listener, it’s not going to sound like anything new enough to grab hold of.