After receiving London Bridges in the mail from Ivy League‘s Ryland Blackinton, I excitedly ripped open the package to find an album with quite interesting cover art. My sole thought was this: how odd. But only after cracking the jewel case to find a web address for the artist, Hope Gangloff, did I understand the power behind the drawing.
Hope’s art depicts young urbanites in common situations—very fitting for the cover of a folk-pop album. She sketches the toils of urban nightlife and images of alcohol and cigarettes and sex and other vices. Swirling with urban culture, the imagery is fascinating when compared to imagery found in folk-pop groups like Ivy League—a group consisting of young 20-something urbanites taking a leap of faith in the music they create.
There’s an existential quality to the art, a nonchalant invasion of everyday life combined with the utilization of the most common of artistic tools: the ball-point pen. Following closely to the visual cover art is the folk-pop of Ivy League, weaving common stories into lyrical beauty backed by lightly plucked acoustic guitars. This is one group that must be followed, one group to keep an eye on, and one group to definitely check out when they cruise through a town near you.
Ivy League is Alex Suarez and Ryland Blackinton. Alex and Ryland go way back, but it was only recently that they reconnected and formed the folk-pop group known as Ivy League. This Brooklyn duo release their debut EP/Single for “London Bridges” on August 1st, 2006 thanks to TwentySeven Records. Boasting four tracks, Ivy League draws similarities to Simon & Garfunkel, Belle & Sebastian, Iron & Wine, and Kings of Convenience, all while keeping the sound concise and their own.
With a light shuffle and dual vocals the group has come to define themselves by, “London Bridges” is sure to sweep the indie-pop world with fervor and grace. “P is for Penelope” conjures strong images of Erlend Øye and Kings of Convenience in the plucking of guitar chords as well as in vocal stylings. The “Penelope” outro is a surprising breakdown for the duo, taking the group electric in both guitars and percussion. While a somewhat odd addition to the song and album, it is catchy and interesting and provides for an outstanding intermission. “June” has been a favorite since first discovering this group, consisting of strong references to The Graduate and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends. “Crown of Love” deserves it’s own paragraph, so here goes:
In a similar fashion to Iron & Wine’s cover of “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service, Ivy League has taken a song from a somewhat well-known group and re-crafted it with a folk base for the London Bridges EP/Single. This song, “Crown of Love”, was initially released on Funeral by The Arcade Fire. Ryland oversaw this project, stripping down the song to its folk roots with lightly plucked guitar patterns backing his clean harmony vocals. A near perfect conclusion to their debut release, the duo has proved themselves a force to reckon with in both folk music and indie-pop—one that promises a bright and successful future.
In summation, Ivy League now has my vote for the best new band and London Bridges the best EP of 2006. It will be difficult to rival in the closing months of the year, one already bright with soon-to-be classics. And Ivy League will be at their forefront.
This review was originally published July 19, 2006 on the old version of FensePost. When this review was first published, the group recorded under the name Ivy League. After discovering another group existed previously under that name, they expanded to This Is Ivy League. They have since released their debut LP.
TwentySeven Records [CDEP, 2006]
1. London Bridges
2. P Is For Penelope
4. Crown Of Love