Witches are a tough band to break down. The vocals from Cara Beth Satalino are far and away the driving force on their debut, Forever. Yet, the band is anything but a singer-songwriter project. The guitars and a rhythm section are subtly driving, with an anxious energy ready to break loose, but somewhat confined. From the opening “Creature of Nature,” the tone is clearly established by Satalino coos “creature of nature/ born of creator/…you learned how to torture.” There’s an awe at the world, but also a dark sense of things going wrong.
Each song is carefully crafted, spinning a web steeped in natural imagery and emotional connotations without directly addressing either. The songwriting takes a classic approach of avoiding proper nouns, letting the ambiguity reach across boundaries and define the experience for the listener. Meanwhile, as the meaning wavers at your behest, Satalino’s voice delivers a calming, easy tone with hints of deeper despair. If there’s a word for Witches, it’s deliberate and calculated.
90s alt-rock surfaces throughout, as in “Good Ones,” “Forget,” and “Never Sez Why,” but it is a subtle influence that doesn’t pull any connotations. The musical influences are smoothly blended, making it hard to pinpoint a single identifying sound—the most specific genre to dominate a song comes in “Count to Ten” and “Grey,” where a country twang rises to the surface, giving extra credence to Satalino’s explorative delivery and adds a sense of woeful wandering to the lyricism. Throughout this mesh of sounds, the guitars take leads at appropriate moments and the rhythm section plays a steady, if supplementary, pop role, moving the songs forward without taking the attention away from the tone conveyed through the vocals. There are restrained moments of energy, but they never dominate the soundscape, keeping a somber and reflective focus.
As a whole, the songwriting is solid and the music interesting, but the ten songs are so even keel that it never fully captures enough attention to stick with you. When it picks up, as in the crescendo chorus of “Roy,” and its “I’ve got my heart on straight/ but my head is in the wrong place” there are hints at what Witches could be, but most of the record drifts by as serviceable, forgettable indie pop. While it should be noted that it’s their debut release, the majority of the record just fails to stand out.
6.0 / 10
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