River Whyless Return To Acoustic Roots On Harmy Driven ‘Monoflora’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

On River Whyless’ strong prior release, 2018’s Kindness, A Rebel, the band added to their indie-folk sound via pulsing synths with success. Now after a few years, they return to their more acoustic roots with Monoflora as the band exhales and relaxes throughout this understated effort.    

There is a laid-back sense of home as the Asheville, NC-based band secluded themselves without a producer to record this go around. The multi-instrumentalists and four songwriters (Halli Anderson, Daniel Shearin, Alex McWalters, and Ryan O’Keefe) delved into family memories, joys, and struggles for material on Monoflora but it is really the vocal harmonies of the three singers (Anderson, O’Keefe, and Shearin) which brighten the album. 

The easy-rolling “Heaven and Light” opens things up with twinkling grace as it combines West African influences with Appalachian folk. “Fast Like a Match” delivers light electric guitar and great harmonies to float along while guitar picking and light rhythms of “Oil Skin” recall an acoustic/rootsy Talking Heads influence. 

The low hill country bluegrass has some banjo twang and violin strums propelling “Mourning Dove” while the collection of string work leads to a more haunting result on “Michigan Cherry”. The outfit adds layers in the middle of the album with bass pulses and Eastern-sounding violin distortion during “Time is a Holy Ghost” while the electro keys, breathy repetitive vocals, and steel drums pump up “Call Me Your Baby”. Both tracks are well constructed, however, they feel a touch out of place on this more rustic release. 

Better are the light indie rock of “Promise Rings”, the spacey and sparse vocal focused “Young Bird” and the bright building sounds of winning closer “Lost In Place” as River Whyless wraps up the album on a high note. Monoflora plays like a grounding effort from the band, stripping back excesses while still moving forward with interwoven hypnotizing vocals and soothing organic musical backing. 

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