Moving beyond the uncertain tones of a band first finding their sound present on debut LP Residents, Folly & the Hunter recently released Tragic Care, the indie folk band’s sophomore full-length album. Comprised of frontman and vocalist Nick Vallee, Chris Fox and Laurie Torres, the Montreal-based trio have built upon the raw emotion and dramatic ballad style present in their first album to create a polished, defining work that well demonstrates the group’s closeness as well as their developing musical prowess.
An album inspired by Vallee’s recent real-life experiences, Tragic Care explores themes of finding the beauty in tragedy and discomfort. Musically, each track captures this essence perfectly: a smattering of lilting keyboards, banjo, cello and the occasional glockenspiel work with beautiful vocal harmonies and light, creative percussion to create musical landscapes reminiscent of Sigur Ros. The effect evokes feelings of warmth and nostalgia, pairing well with concepts of elusive satisfaction and the bittersweet nature of life. The album’s opener “Watch for Deer at Dawn,” a song about seeking validation and the difficulties of becoming the person you want to be, opens with a tenderly played keyboard melody that crescendos into a multidimensional tune featuring a soothing cello and a soft percussion backbone. The effect is an airy, inspiring sound that makes you feel as though you are standing alone atop a mountain, breathing in fresh air as you look out at a grand, forested landscape.
Though many of the tracks on Tragic Care follow this same pattern of tension-building, dramatic ballads, style and instrumentation vary and well showcase the musicians’ widely ranging talents. While tracks like “Watch for Deer” and “Our Stories End” depict a gradual buildup accompanied by minimal percussion (which, depending on the track, includes banging on hand drums, tapping drum sticks together or lightly clapping), other tracks feature a more consistently-paced, upbeat style. “Moth in the Porchlight” features a merry banjo melody and vocal overlapping that make for a lovely, cheerful track reminiscent of many songs on Sufjan Stevens’ Welcome to Michigan. “Ghost” is played at a quicker tempo and is carried by heavier, more prominent percussion, making it one of the only tracks on the album that may inspire some jubilant foot-tapping.
Lyrically, Tragic Care does its job well–Vallee’s vocals ideally match the album’s musical style, slightly downtrodden yet optimistic and at peace. “How it Came Down,” a lovely, soothing track featuring cello and glockenspiel, tells a story of one’s loss of sense of self: “Every shakedown I withstand drains more spirit from my begging hands. I give them more than I give back.” Presenting a similar theme, the album’s namesake “Tragic Care” depicts the process of losing your direction: “I am stuck upon a ship, all the rowers lost their grips. We’re being propelled into the rocks…I have done the best I could, didn’t touch you like it should. Now I’m propelled into the wind, I didn’t learn, I didn’t win.” Poetic and melancholy, these lyrics pair beautifully depict the raw emotion that went into writing the album. Though peaceful and elegant, one gets a strong sense of dissatisfaction emanating from Vallee as he conveys his story track after track.
“Indie folk” can be a daunting category. While often limiting, oversimplifying and overdone, Folly & the Hunter proves that the genre can also be multidimensional and exploratory. On the whole, Tragic Care is the sound of a band that has hit its stride. The pictures this album paints are inspiring and sincere, conjuring strong emotions throughout each track. I highly recommend this work to anyone seeking such an experience.