PREMIERE: Relatives - Give It A Try


Will Shenton

By way of announcing their new LP, Strange We Fall (out August 31 on Figure & Ground), Relatives have released a truly lush track. "Give It A Try" showcases the group's signature smoky duets and softly cascading instrumentals, while capturing their approach to the record as a whole: dive in and don't overthink it.

Building off the songwriting duo's diverse backgrounds—Ian McLellan Davis' as a composer and string arranger for acts like Feist and Grizzly Bear, and Katie Vogel's as a self-taught bluegrass singer—"Give It A Try" feels effortless in its composition. Sultry double bass snakes along to form the backbone as it gradually builds from near-minimalism to a wall of shimmering guitars. The vocals are gorgeous throughout, simple yet mesmerizing, floating along like they're singing at your bedside.

Last year marked the tenth anniversary of Relatives, and their experience shows at every turn. To hear them tell it, writing Strange We Fall was an exercise in spontaneity, characterized by quick turnarounds and attempts to pare down the band's grandiose ideas. But even in this somewhat less deliberate environment, the final recordings feel eminently complete.

"Give It A Try," and Strange We Fall as a whole, sees Relatives "paring down and turning inwards, exploring what can be done with less." Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Pre-order Strange We Fall on Figure & Ground Records

TRACK REVIEW: Relatives - The Ambiguities


Phillipe Roberts

Cozying up to an ambling beat that drags its feet like it just got out of bed, Brooklyn duo Relatives spin a drowsy tale of wayward souls on new track “The Ambiguities.” The first taste of their tenth-anniversary record, Weighed Down Fortune, its weary shuffle and sleepwalking harmonies make good on all the promises of the title—good-natured folk anchored to the floor with a heavy heart.

Dual vocalists Ian McClellan Davis and Katie Vogel trade verses on the track, each occupying their own intensely pensive sphere. “Dark sister, she came to me in a dream / Shadows hung from her brow,” he sings, and she follows, “She came to me / Promised her whole self to these city streets / Lack of heat." Davis sings as if he’s just emerged from a dream, focused on scattered, fuzzy recollections, while Vogel takes a more direct tack. Combined, the two unspool the narrative from both ends, pulling apart an all-too-familiar story of desperation and blind faith.

They have their individual strengths, but the melody truly flourishes when their voices blend together on the chorus. The beginnings of a silver lining peak out from behind the clouds: “Swift and sure the carpet was pulled out from under our toes / But all will be made whole,” they sing, sounding less like they’re singing to reassure the “dark sister” or “sweet Lucy” than to keep each other warm.

With a sparse but soothing rhythm propelling them along, Relatives keep the pacing tight, delivering a bleak yet charming piece in less than three minutes. "The Ambiguities" packs a compact, heart-thumping wallop, making it an easy winner for a rapidly approaching winter.