In our romantic conception of music, as some sort of “pure” art form, we’d like to imagine that the external physicality of an album, like cover art or name, don’t matter or matter less than the music at hand. In addition, at first glance, you could argue that the digital age has detracted from the importance of layout, covert art, or aesthetic style in general, since less and less people purchase physical music. But, to both statements, the opposite is true; things like album name and cover art are incredibly important in setting mood in the listener, which can influence their reception to music. With the digital age, since so much music is on offer and listening is always a click away, this is doubly more important, first in order to capture the listener’s attention in a sea of products but also because listening can now take place anywhere and involve a virtual infinity of setting, mood, and perspective.
Evi Vine‘s Give Your Heart to the Hawks handles this extremely well. Firstly, the name of the album sets up the atmosphere conveyed on it to a tee. Nature is first evoked, hinting at the neo-folk influences replete on the album. The metaphor also directly speaks to the emotionality and intimate nature of the album, seeped in meditation on mental states and an eerie kind of translucent ambience that calls for introspection. The cover art capitalizes on that, placing the artist in the center of the work but transforming her through shades of darkness, a palette which makes up the bulk of the colors used on the album itself.
The music fits onto these themes like a glove. Give Your Hearts to the Hawks is first and foremost fueled by the captivating vocals of Evi Vine herself. Her timbre is full, rich, and husky, invoking dimly lit bars, fog-laden copses of woods, and an aching feeling of saudade for the far away. These are supported by a range of delicate instruments; on the powerful, eponymous fourth track, these are fragile string effects, caressing drums which murmur like the sea washing ashore, a deep, warm bass and melodic, acoustic guitar lines that hang over the outro like so much filigree. The end result is a darkly captivating sound, a kind of chamber pop ambience without the robustness usually associated with the genre, like strobes of warm, muted light on a deep darkness.
When the guitars or bass instruments are more prominent, accompanied by louder drums, comparisons to the legendary The Gathering become too obvious to ignore. While the oddness of that ensemble, and the thinner registers of Anneke van Giersbergen, are never quite reached, the overall impact of the blend between silence, ambience, and the constant heartbeat of the vocals evoke the same kind of emotions. A painfully sweet melancholy runs through Give Your Heart to the Hawks, first set in the title of the album itself but then manifested through the careful, precise exploration of its promise throughout the album. It’s an album for cold days, deep thoughts, and a fire that burns brightly through the night for the darkness that surrounds it.
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Evi Vine’s Give Your Heart to the Hakws was released on January 10th of 2019. You can grab it via the Bandcamp page above.