(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Perhaps adventure, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For some, it means jumping out of a plane at 20,000 feet and praying to God your parachute opens. Others require decidedly less titillating experiences to get the blood flowing. Adventure could be as simple as a stroll downtown or a campout in the backyard. Different strokes for different folks, right? In the case of Burlington’s Waves of Adrenaline, it seems the mere act of making music is adventuresome. The folk duo consists of two middle-aged songwriters, Alana Shaw and Bridget Ahrens, both of whom returned to playing music later in life. That could certainly be a daunting proposition, especially if your guitar has been gathering dust in a closet for years. The result of their journey is a debut album, Off On a Wild Adventure. While not nearly so endorphin-boosting as its title would suggest, the record is a pleasant, if conventional, collection of folkie fare that should find a willing audience in those who prefer their musical adventures on the tamer side.
Waves of Adrenaline pattern much of their catalog after the harmony-driven stylings of the Indigo Girls. That duo’s influence is apparent throughout the record and WOA seem most comfortable when overtly winking towards Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. Blue-hued tracks such as “Watersong,” the surprisingly ethereal “Rain, Heavy at Times,” and especially album closer “When I Leave Here,” are highlights. Much like Ray and Saliers, Shaw and Ahrens spend a lot of time singing in unison before breaking off into harmonies, usually leading into choruses. It’s a predictable but solid device that makes good use of the duo’s well-matched vocal timbres, and provides several genuinely nice moments.
Still, there’s a hesitancy throughout the record that gives some songs a clunky, vanilla feel. On “The Sledding Song,” for example, the duo fails to capture the thrill of sliding at a breakneck pace down the slopes of Mt. Philo, despite playful lyricism to the contrary. The post-Irene homage “You Can’t Drown Out Vermont,” while well intentioned, is hamstrung by overly literal wordplay that’s more Vermont passive than Vermont strong.
Given both the duo’s moniker and the album’s title, Off On a Wild Adventure is at times almost comically reserved. Shaw and Ahrens generally sing and play capably enough. But there is cautiousness in both writing and performance that prevents the record from transcending paint-by-numbers neo-folk. However, despite its occasional stiffness, the record is sweetly charming, which might be all the adventure that WOA really need.
Waves of Adrenaline celebrate Off On a Wild Adventure with a release party at the Block Gallery in Winooski on Thursday, July 19.