Talking to an acquaintance about The Old Believers (MySpace), we noted how astonishing it was that the old-time-y folk-pop duo has been able to define their own unique sound despite their young age—both are around 20. Yet, in retrospect, other notable artists have fit this category nicely. Namely, in modern times, Zack Condon of Beirut. In old times, the name that would have likely reigned supreme would have been Buddy Holly. The Old Believers are Keeley Boyle and Nelson Kempf and the two flip back and forth on vocals from song to song.
Quick history: The two began in Alaska, growing up in Kenai before moving to Portland in 2006. Their songs are filled with reminiscence, often blending memories of their Alaskan childhood with educated lyrical twists. Eight Golden Greats was recorded in Athol, Idaho and Portland, Oregon. These three locations all have a distinct commonality—each has a small-town feel (yes, even the city of Portland) that can be heard in The Old Believers’ music.
The album opens with “There It Is”, a song that takes about a minute to catch on, but once it does it shines quite bright! In fact, Eight Golden Greats has virtually no un-pleasantries. The album flows from one great tune to the next. “Granny’s Song” is without a doubt the album high point. But there are plenty of others than come close to peaking its pinnacle – “The Glories All Been Done”, “There It Is”, “No More”… you name it, it probably comes close.
The backing instrumentation on Eight Golden Greats fits a folk-pop mold. The percussion has a heavy emphasis on bass-drum but maintains a sense of minimalism. The keys are punched softly and the violins are plentiful. Guitars are subdued and occasionally finger-plucked. When it all comes around, it’s amazing to hear two teenage friends come together to form a band, each with an intense love of folk music and pop music. It’s even more amazing to hear both with such distinct voices at such young ages. It definitely makes The Old Believers one of the best pop outfits in currently residing in the Pacific Northwest.
This review was originally published July 10, 2008 on the old version of FensePost.
Fine/Romantic Recordings [CD, 2008]
1. There It Is
2. No More
3. Granny’s Song
4. That’s All
5. Betcher Ass
6. The Trouble I’ve Met
7. Waltz #3
8. The Glories All Been Done