Thanks to the likes of The Lumineers, Florence and the Machine and Mumford and, folk music is making its comeback in all of its varying shapes and sizes. It’s a much appreciated break from the top 40 that can get cluttered with all manner of electronic and pop songs. It’s no real surprise that it would eventually lead to attempts to create a hybrid between folk and more popular styles, which seems to be what Chasing Grace are partially attempting on Nowhere Near Old Enough.
While listening to the album, one question kept coming to mind: Is it trying to be a folk album, or a pop album? Songs on Nowhere Near Old Enough tend to fall in one of two categories: Upbeat songs that experiment with other genres, and typical folk arrangements. The album has some form of organisation worked out, with the upbeat and modernised songs dominating the front end of the album before it descends into a collection of ballads at the tail end of the 43 minute run time. This is definitely a good thing, because the album can seem a little chaotic at times.
While folk elements such as acoustic guitar and the trademark drums are present in many songs on the album, the modernisation comes through in a few very specific situations. One of the main examples is Run, which utilises a breakbeat-style drum beat throughout the chorus while the surrounding verses and other instruments keep the folk atmosphere of the song going despite the jarring difference in the elements. Another Type Of Love is a more traditional folk song, but employs similarly jarring electronics in the chorus to simulate the effect behind the accompanying lyrics—It’s another type of love/It’s a different type of love/I can feel the rush.
These are valiant attempts at breathing new life into this style, but unfortunately clash with the folk ballads and mid-tempos, which is especially unfortunate for Run which is book-ended by the calm and organic Alice and the piano and strings ballad Can’t Believe.
That’s not to say the modern songs are the highlights of the album: Very Little Good, a song solely sung by the band’s male vocalist Phil Plested, revolves mostly around guitar and sparse kick drum beats with atmospheric sounds setting the somber mood of the song. It manages to stand out based purely on writing, arrangement and performance rather than tricks. Taking it even further, the acoustic version of their single Trust from their earlier EP ends up being the most sincere and serious moment of the album. Both Phil and the band’s female vocalist Grace Ackerman sound better here than they have over the rest of the album, perhaps signalling that more of a focus on these songs would have made for a better result.
That’s not to say Nowhere Near Old Enough is a bad album, though. The ideas all work, and the modern songs sound fresh while still retaining that folk sound that’s common throughout the album, even if the slower and more organic songs steal the show. The main issue was the band’s inability to decide on a direction. Focusing the album entirely on one of the two extremes would have made for a more cohesive and appealing package, rather than it feeling jumbled and directionless like it does now. There’s talent there, and there are some definite successes on the album, but it’s ultimately dragged down by its own aural wanderlust.