Album Reviews

The Staves – All Now

(Communion) UK release date: 22 March 2024

The beginning of a new chapter for the reconfigured duo centres on gentle, wistful folk pop with an emphasis on harmonies

The Staves - All Now It’s been a period of change for the Staveley-Taylor sisters, otherwise known as The Staves. Their last album, Good Woman, was written and recorded in the shadow of the pandemic, a relationship break-up and of the death of their mother, and All Now has a similar life-changing backstory.

For, after the release of Good Women, founder member Emily Staveley-Taylor decided to leave the group to concentrate on raising her children. Given The Staves’ focus on intricate harmonies and the group dynamic, it could be a risky move to repackage the band as a duo, but from the opening note of the title track, it’s clear that it’s still business as usual.

That title track almost seems like a statement of intent – a group refreshed and looking forward to the next chapter. It builds steadily upwards, full of synths and guitar as Camilla and Jess sing “it’s all now, isn’t it exciting, we can stick it to the man and come out fighting”. There’s an insistent, exhilarating quality to the song, which makes it one of the best Staves songs to date.

All Now is very much an album steeped in the tradition of classic pop/folk. John Congleton, who has worked with the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen in the past, is on production duties for this record, and he knows how to play to the band’s strengths. The general feel is gentle, wistful folk, with the focus always on the sister’s harmonies – most beautifully deployed on tracks like Fundamental Memory, while the minimal, brief interlude of The Important One has a stark beauty to it that sticks in the mind long after its 70 second running time.

Former member Emily may have moved onto parenting duties, but she receives her very own tribute song in After School, one of the most upbeat tracks on the album. There’s almost a nostalgic glow to the song as it reminisces about their older sister looking after them starting school and looking “the shit” after a new haircut. Blessed with a big, soaring chorus, it’s one of the catchiest moments on All Now.

Make A Decision has some nagging percussion and lyrics about how crippling anxiety can be – at times, there are moments reminiscent of Kate Bush on her Red Shoes album. I’ll Never Leave You Alone is a devastatingly pretty little ballad about self-doubt, while Great Wave is the polar opposite – a surprisingly intense number which maximises a quiet-loud-quiet dynamic to become one of the heaviest tracks that The Staves have tackled yet.

What The Staves do so well is make these seemingly polite, unobtrusive songs so emotionally affecting. Recognise has some of the album’s most beautiful harmonies, and lines like “last night, we saw Counting Crows, all the songs you would recognise… I’m scared you wouldn’t recognise me” pack quite the punch.

When a member of a band leaves, especially one as vital to The Staves sound as Emily Staveley-Taylor was, it could mark the beginning of the end. All Now has the opposite effect though – an album which sounds like the beginning of a new chapter for the duo.

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More on The Staves
The Staves – All Now
The Staves – Good Woman
The Staves – If I Was
The Staves – Dead & Born & Grown