Too many artists attack their second album like they do their first – with a sense of nothing to lose and everything to gain. This can be naïve; you can’t rely on the same morals that saw you burst onto the scene in the first place, and should, in fact, try and grow the sound if you want to stay around in the industry a long time. Shakey Graves hasn’t fallen into this trap with second album effort And The War Came, which is a step up musically from his debut, helped along the way with a dose of originality.
With 2011 self-released Roll The Bones being a more inverted, stripped back effort, And The War came is in some ways the exact opposite. Shakey has experimented, dabbled, filtered, grown and improved in almost every way. It’s with this sheer amount of will to progress where the album gets its energy and ‘special something’ from. Only Son is testament to this, giving off definition and zest with its deep bass drum kicks set against fast guitar picking, all propped up against beautifully distant vocals – this all amalgamates into a well crafted effort.
With the tone for the record set, before long you realise the album is about opening up, letting people in and being unselfish – you can almost see the artist growing track by track. With Esme Patterson featuring on a few numbers, she brings an element of shine to proceedings, with both artists seemingly bouncing off each others input and raising the records appeal. Dearly Departed sees both focusing their efforts on a wonderfully unique song of airing dirty laundry; it’s intro of Marching band meets cheerleading practice set against clever vocals make for a well rounded track full of life, love and sentiment. Esme also crops up on Call it Heaven, with the lyrics portraying the mood: ‘Well babe it’s building ‘till it’s bound to burst, I can’t forget I’ve been the best of your worst’.
The great thing about this record is Shakey’s taken bits and pieces from small, lost or forgotten subcultures, and fits this all around a country/folk vibe in an effortlessly cool way. If Not For You’s gentle build up reminds you of Arcade Fire set against early 90s grunge, whereas Pansy Waltz attempts modern folk in an interesting an original waltz rhythm – listen with your eyes closed and you can almost see a pair of vagabond troubadours dancing cheek to cheek with serene grins on their faces.
And The War Came is a brave second album and a real gem of a record. Rarely do you see an artist progress so much from his debut, and what’s really helped is the artist allowing others to influence and be part of it, rather than making it an album of solitude. There’s enough here for Shakey Graves to build on in the future, and he is well on his way to finding a sound that others would spend a lifetime searching for