Psalmships is the latest project by folk genius Joshua Britton (The Sweetheart Parade). Where his earlier moniker found him a natural folk rhythm in guitar + vocalist, Psalmships is somewhat an antithesis. This is obvious from the earliest moments of opener “Determination”. The music isn’t acoustic guitar heavy; it’s not pointed and rough, or lo-fi. It is, in fact, smooth.
This continues throughout most of the album. Compounding vocals include harmony, guitars are toned down from the angular plucking so populous in the genre – even Britton’s deep tenor vocals have a calming nature to them, and it’s not all in the mixing. Where The Sweetheart Parade was the loud side you always wanted to hear from Songs:Ohia, Psalmships is the calm seas The Sweetheart Parade never quite encompassed.
That’s not to say that The Sweetheart Parade was all for naught – it wasn’t, as both Smaller Constellations and Sings Like A Priest both warranted phenomenal amounts of praise. Psalmships, on the other hand, simply allows Britton to make music in a slightly new fashion. And its sense of style is one of which I definitely approve.
Oddly enough, select songs are archived on deleted EPs and various other releases; they’re likely the ones with a heavier guitar presence and more power behind the vocals (I’m thinking of you, “Pagliuca Pt.3”, but I could also very well be wrong). So, despite the presence found on the aforementioned releases, Smoke + Vein achieves a compilation of tracks both new and old, Psalmships and The Sweetheart Parade.
There are a few burgeoning names in the world of underground folk. One is Jesse Rifkin of The Wailing Wall, whose collective of musicians is unprecedented in their ability to concoct musical ideas into heavenly tunes. I would argue that nipping at Rifkin’s heels is Joshua Britton, whose style sides on the minimalist, but is no less powerful.
Psalmships’ Smoke + Vein is further proof these words are true; as I listen to Britton coo in the love song “Stars”:
I have tried to talk to God but he turns his cheek on both of us
There are stars beneath your eyelids, there are snakes around your wrist
There’s the rooftop where I left you, where you said before we kissed:
I don’t know anyone who loves me more than you
You see, it’s his ability to craft powerful and meaningful lyrics that makes Psalmships great. And he expertly translates those words, that poetry, into beautiful music.
Sweetheart Parade Music [CD, 2009]
02. Hymn Of Lions
06. Horses Pt. 1
07. Pagliuca Pt. 3
08. Horses Pt. 2
12. Solomon’s Song