Literate, vibrant music that surprises and stirs is the hallmark of The Gray Havens, a band that centers around the husband and wife duo David and Licia Radford. Their songs spring from the pages of books and the everyday moments of life and are as likely to leave the listener pondering a deep mystery as celebrating a simple pleasure.
Blue Flower, the duo's fifth studio release, explores a soul-deep place of mysterious, inconsolable longing. The engaging songs give this longing a name and usher the listener from a long winter to a bright summer. Blue Flower is fertile ground for wonder and joy and launches The Gray Havens' rich song-craft to new heights.
Since their story began in 2012, The Gray Havens have evolved from a "narrative-pop-folk" duo to a band continually experimenting with pop and cinematic elements which, ultimately, has defined a musical atmosphere that's all their own.
Blue Flower finds the band exploring new soundscapes that walk the listener from a seemingly endless winter to the alluring light of summer. The opening line of "Endless Summer" hints at the sonic journey: "Have you ever missed somewhere that you've never been before?" With lyrics inspired by C.S. Lewis, these songs peer into the paradox of that singular desire that no experience in the world can satisfy.
Remarkably, these may simultaneously be the band's most scholarly and accessible songs. Like its source material, Blue Flower is an album of surprising joy. The album's themes are as strong in the music as in the lyrics, creating an engaging package that invites repeated listening and sharing. Ben Shive and Dave Radford's collaboration balances layers of instrumentation, establishing a cinematic place for each song.
During a C.S. Lewis reading binge, Radford discovered to his surprise that, although he'd heard Lewis's Surprised by Joy quoted through the years, he had never actually read it. "I can't count how many times I'd heard quotes from Surprised by Joy referenced in different sermons throughout the years. They were always intriguing. Eventually, I figured it was time to hear Lewis's story in his own words." A few chapters in, he quickly became engrossed. One particularly intriguing sentence became the seed of the album. Lewis describes a sense of longing he felt as a young child, overlooking the hills outside his window. "They taught me longing- Sehnsucht; made me for good or ill, and before I was six years old, a votary of the Blue Flower."
As the songs took shape, the pandemic-altered recording process forged an even stronger production collaboration. Shive would visit the Radford's home each day, and without the pressure of a hard-and-fast recording schedule, the exchange of ideas was more open and relaxed. "It created a very collaborative and positive environment. In the past, I'd worry that we wouldn't have time to try out all of my ideas if I didn't voice them in real time. Since the project files lived on my computer this time around, I knew I had the freedom to try-out as much as I wanted on my own between sessions" Radford recalls. "I think it made the production process more experimental and natural."
The results find the band exploring new sounds that stay anchored in their roots but reach out to serve the arc of the songs. Supported by an array of world-class players (such as Will Chapman of Colony House on drums and Nathan Dugger of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors on guitar), each lending their own unique voices, the band is in its finest form. The opening title track launches from its ethereal opening bars into a driving up-tempo conclusion that hints at the bright, percussive pop that highlights many of the tracks. And in an album about longing, these songs accomplish something extraordinary: they grab your attention with their present reality, but they carry a tantalizing undercurrent that there is something beautiful and mysterious that can't quite be grasped.
As the album takes its place in their catalog, The Gray Havens continue to tell the story of redemption and all of its mysteries like no other.
Unforgettable beauty| Posted March 31, 2017
Unforgettable, hauntingly beautiful music, great vocals, and amazing lyrics that you get lost in. Their songs are so powerful and poetic, and very enjoyable. I'm definitely forward to hearing more of their music :D !