Reviewed by Helen Whitall
'Monument' is the debut album from Wild Harbors, otherwise known as husband and wife Chris and Jenna Badeker. The Mumford-And-Sons-esque title track, which opens the album, showcases the rich harmonies, traded lead vocals and uplifting sounds that characterise the project, but the pair show their versatility throughout by really mixing up the styles. The quirky opening of "We're Getting Better" immediately proves that this is not going to be more of the same, dominated as it is by '80s-style keyboard riffs, though to me, the very stripped back interlude does not sound full enough with only the electronic beat to carry it along. The pop-rock "House On Fire" follows, this time with a bit more electric guitar going on, and a strong, catchy beat. "Abigail" is a real gem of a piece, an honest and moving prayer for a sick child, played touchingly on picked acoustic guitar. The next two tracks also carry nice messages, the poppy "Come Clean", built of layers of loops, featuring the chorus lyric "cut back what you want, get back what you need, this is how we come clean" whilst "Alone Together" carries a bit of a guitar riff and a running beat, as it explores relationship anxieties. The pair's vocals work particularly well here. The '90s-style soft rock of "Water" feels a little cheesy to my taste, but Jenna sings powerfully. "Battle" is a slower piece, picking up pace towards the end, exploring the battle over the soul and how it is won; the drums sound a little clattery here, which lets it down slightly. Next up, the "Ballad Of Wallace And Jessie" is a proper folk ballad in every way, and for me the highlight of the album. Atmospherically Celtic strummed acoustic guitar, picked out in electric guitar and piano, tell the arresting tale of an orphan girl who the night before she died had a premonition of the musicians who played on the deck of the sinking Titanic. The closer, "Tomorrow Morning", begins with a real crunchy guitar riff and forceful beat, though the chorus is not a strong as the punchy verses. After a Hammond organ and keyboard solo, the song completely changes pace and sound half way back to jangly strummed acoustic guitar again as Chris takes over vocal from Jenna, shifting the feel of the song entirely, and suddenly we are in mid Americana. With so many varied musical styles going on through this album, it may be just a tad too eclectic to see the duo get to the US CCM big time, but it's certainly an impressive first set.
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