Elephant Revival – Petals

Unlike the lumbering animal that figures
prominently in the band’s name, this Colorado quintet’s acoustic
approach remains nimble on its collective feet. Now, nearly a decade
into its career, Elephant Revival’s hippy-dippy,
flowers-and-feathers-in-their-hair
folk/world/gypsy/jazz/singer-songwriter approach on their fourth studio
album doesn’t sound markedly different than on its 2008 debut.
That’s
not necessarily a bad thing since the vibe and vocals remain
distinctive enough to carry the weight of songs that can be a little
slight. Even with three singers the vocals, either solo or duet, are
subtle, affable and unassuming which dovetails well with the
predominantly dialed-down music. Frontwoman Bonnie Paine’s shy, retiring
voice is effective on the opening “Hello You Who” love song, but over
the course of her intermittent contributions to about half the tunes,
the fragility begins to wear thin.  Interestingly,
the album’s toughest rhythmic attack comes on “When I Fall,” which is
also its most spiritual moment. Lyrically, themes of introspective
drifting along with physical and philosophical loss are bathed in a
positive light.
There is a
classical/world beat thread to songs such as the title track that nudge
at Elephant Revival’s established groove even as you often wish they
would move further outside their comfort zone and further test the
waters. Individually, the
songs are tuneful and undeniably melodic, yet after a modest 35 minutes,
they blend into each other, a criticism that can also be aimed at the
act’s other albums. It’s possible there may be a quirky “Ho Hey” type
hit hidden here to quickly shift Revival from cult to crossover appeal.
Existing
fans will doubtlessly enjoy another warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely, earthy
entry in a catalog that thrives on that. While no one expects an
elephant to suddenly transform into a swan, and despite the band
disputing it in interviews, Petals feels just a little too much
like its predecessors to be considered anything but another respectable
entry into musically diverse territory the band has already tilled.

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