Nothing puts insomnia in its place better than the discovery of a post-worthy track. Something about the Local Strangers’ “Artificial Love” jumped out at me after their album Left for Better had accidentally slipped to the back-burner. But this Seattle duo brings the Midwestern charm of Over the Rhine to this bare-bones piano and vocal showcase, as Aubrey Zoli channels Karin Bergquist even as she adds her own smoky charm to the recording.
And though this is the album’s sedate closing number, the rest of the album is equally worthy of praise. “Uptown,” featuring Matt Hart on vocals, is a cross between Glassjaw Boxer-era Stephen Kellogg with slight touches of modern Mumford folk, with a hook which won’t quit. And “Daniel” lets Zoli shine yet again, making believers out of all of us as her voice melts over the carefully paced bluegrass melody and harmonies which would make Fleetwood Mac melt in their prime. “Can’t you make it look easy?” Hart sings over a hand-clap march of percussion and banjo, slyly answering their own question as the harmonies soar.
This is a keeper you’ll hopefully still be praising well into the new year.Left for Better is an assured album from a duo ultimately comfortable enough in their own skin to produce a album deftly merging varied tastes into one of the year’s best intimate listening experiences.