If you just want your fix of gossip, you could read People magazine. But, listening to Oh Visitor, the newest album from D.C. folk duo The Sweater Set, is a better, more enjoyable idea. It’s an open invitation, after all. The title is apt, the duo’s way of calling out to you to begin a winding, fascinating conversation about any manner of things: “Oh visitor, did you hear about…”
What Maureen Andary and Sarah Curtin want to talk about is engaging – the conversation ranges from breakups to death and addiction to gender inequality – and elegantly conveyed. It’s not often you get your gossip delivered via gorgeous soprano harmonies.
Like any good conversation, Oh Visitor starts lightly and then progresses into more intimate territory. “Stupid Flame,” the album’s lead-off track, features a rich arrangement of upbeat hand-claps and a shimmering wall of banjo and guitars. There is a hint of something deeper and darker in the lyrics, though.
The song chronicles the end of a relationship and the somewhat benign attempts at healing – buying another dress, a little gin. There is a hint of something deeper, though, in the self-effacing lyrics. The cures are only temporary, and while Andary and Curtin know it, they don’t reveal that secret so easily. The sunny music serves to mask real pain and frustration.
As the album plays on and the duo gets more comfortable with you, the listener, the conversation gets more intimate. The simpler the arrangement, the more vulnerable Andary and Curtin make themselves. “Simple” offers an intimate snapshot of life after a break-up, delivered over sparse, quiet guitar chords. “Long Winter” features hushed, twinkling piano underneath stark, mournful harmonies.
The record still has its share of spunk. “Hunt You Down” is a bouncy ditty with barely-veiled threats: “I know you’ve seen my chef-knife collection, hanging along my kitchen wall,” the duo sings glibly. Oh Visitor is a conversation over coffee, and the coffee definitely has some brandy in it.
Fans of The Sweater Set will enjoy catching up with the duo as they listen to Oh Visitor. New listeners will want to sit down and stay for awhile, like coffee-shop patrons who can’t help eavesdropping on the fascinating conversation at the table beside them.
Oh Visitor is available for purchase on iTunes. Preview one of the tracks off the album “Stupid Flame” below: