Closeness Native Harrow
- 2The Dying of Ages04:37
- 3Smoke Burns03:54
- 4Same Every Time03:19
- 5Carry On03:42
- 6If I Could03:53
- 7Turn Turn05:38
- 8Even Peace02:52
- 9Feeling Blue03:27
- 10Sun Queen05:45
Info for Closeness
"Closeness", the fourth album from Pennsylvania’s Native Harrow, elaborates on the duo’s radiant warmth and timeless nostalgia with the inclusion of new sounds and experiences. The combustible fuzz-driven opener “Shake” gives way to slices of 70s FM groove (“The Dying of Ages” and the desert funk of “If I Could”), 60s art pop (“Even Peace” and the expansive orchestral “Sun Queen”), and the kind of graceful folk (“Smoke Burns”) and folk soul (the compassionate conviction of “Carry On”) the band is best known for. The intricate polyrhythms and grinding Moog synthesizer (“Same Every Time”), the fully realized vintage jazz combo (“Turn Turn”), and the exquisite piano ballad (the penultimate “Feeling Blue”) provide glimpses down previously unexplored streets and find the band stretching out and confidently illuminating their expansive aspirations.
Turbulent first single “Shake” roars to life with an army of fuzz guitars and drums, underpinned by waves of strings (of the real, mellotron, and chamberlain varieties) and the rare appearance of harpsichord. “Shake when I’m feelin’ lonely, shake when my heart’s all over the place”, articulates the conflict of anxiety. “Being on tour helps, because being away from yourself helps,” Native Harrow’s singer & songwriter Devin Tuel admits. And yet, there is hope. True it might all look different when we wake up laughing. “Heard it would all get better, all get better someday.”
“I dug myself out from the well to make Closeness a record about love”, professes Devin Tuel. “When I sat down to begin what would become Closeness I felt that above all, I wanted to make it clear that, while the clock is moving, we can hold onto one another and maybe there will be tears but there will also be laughter.”
The songs on Closeness were recorded over two sessions; three December days in the dying light of 2019, and the first three new days of January 2020. Composed of takes that captured Tuel’s master vocals live in the room, guitar in hand, with Harms on bass and Hall on drums, the record expands upon this organic base with an array of orchestral flourishes and vintage keyboards that give the proceedings a classic sheen.
The result is a masterful collision of nostalgia and immediacy, a recombination of timeless influences performed with care and precision. Whether it’s the blissful chime of “Even Peace,” the hand-clap folk-soul of “If I Could,” or the sighing jazz of “Turn Turn,” Native Harrow exhibit an uncanny ability to elevate Tuel’s searching examinations of struggle, perseverance, solitude, and togetherness into an enveloping cocoon of sound and melody.
Closeness follows Native Harrow’s 2019 album Happier Now, which Paste called “timeless — its healing qualities shouldn’t be underestimated” and which Americana UK deemed “a captivating, almost mesmeric album of the highest quality.” In 2019 the duo toured extensively in the UK, and in the US with Great Lake Swimmers. While 2020 shows are on hold, they have rescheduled numerous European tours and festivals, including Black Deer and Deer Shed in the UK, for spring and summer 2021.
Devin Tuel, vocals, guitar
Stephen Harms, bass, vocals
Devin Tuel may consider herself to be an artist meant for a different time, but she now finds herself inhabiting her own true place. The singer-songwriter is at home in Newburgh, NY reflecting on her third album, Happier Now, released under her nom de plume, Native Harrow, as well as the difficult sojourn the former ballerina and classically trained singer has had to traverse to become the writer and performer she was meant to be. “This record is about becoming your own advocate. Realising that maybe you are different in several or a myriad of ways and that that is okay. And further, it is about me becoming a grown woman,” Tuel says.
After nearly two decades of rigorous training in ballet, theatre, and voice, Tuel needed to break out of the oppressive rules of academia and find her natural voice, write from her heart, and figure out what kind of performer she truly was rather than the one she was being moulded into from the age of 3. “I spent my early twenties playing every venue in Greenwich Village, recording demos in my friend’s kitchen, and making lattes. I felt very alive then. I was on my own living in my own little studio, staying up all night writing; the dream I had of being a bohemian New York City artist was unfolding. I wanted to be Patti Smith. I was also heartbroken, poor, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. My twenties, as I think it goes for most, were all about getting up, getting knocked down, and learning to keep going. I never gave up and I think if I told 20-year-old me how things looked 9 years later she’d be so excited”.
Happier Now (out 2nd August on Loose), is a set of nine songs recorded and mixed by Alex Hall (JD McPherson, The Cactus Blossoms, Pokey LaFarge) at Chicago’s Reliable Recorders. The album was co-produced by Hall, Tuel, and her bandmate, multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms.
Native Harrow cuts out clear and vibrant narratives on fear, love, the open road, ill-fated relationships, and coping with the state of the world. “I wanted to share that I made it out of my own thunderstorm. I had experienced the high peaks and very low valleys of my twenties. I saw more of the world on my own, got through challenges, reveled in true moments of triumph… but all the while the world around me was growing louder, wilder, and scarier. Music for me is a place to be soft. This album was my place to feel it all.”
Happier Now’s nine songs were written during three back-to-back tours across North America supporting the band’s second album, Sorores. The album was recorded in just three days in March 2018 during what Tuel jokingly calls “downtime” in the middle of the grueling 108 date tour. Tuel approached the sessions like a musicians’ workshop, each morning beginning with the songwriter presenting her collaborators with the day’s material. The trio rehearsed and documented each song live on the floor, tracking as a band through each take. No click tracks, scratch tracks, or even headphones; just three musicians in a small room, captured with Hall’s collection of vintage mics and some subtle retro production techniques. Overdubs, including vocal harmonies, B3 organ, Rhodes, and the rare lead guitar were added to decorate these live performances. The creative energy of the tightly-knit sessions spilled over into Tuel’s songwriting as well – she skipped lunch on the third and final day of recording to pen the road-weary “Hard To Take”. Four days after arriving in Chicago, Native Harrow was back on the road and Happier Now was complete.
Happier Now oscillates between feeling the sting of uncertainty (“Can’t Go on Like This”), the beauty of California (“Blue Canyon”) and the ache for lavish stability (“Way to Light”). You could say Tuel wears her heart proudly on her sleeve, but that’d be underplaying the exact gravity of her stories. Each starlit image is framed within her warm, enveloping vocals and the careful, profound considerations of Harms’ musicianship. Start to finish, the new record pours forth from her very bones, and you get the overwhelming sense she has never been more daring and honest than right now.
This album contains no booklet.