The sound of nylon guitar strings plucked deliberately and with a tranquil sentiment invokes that transcendent quality often experienced in places like an outdoor folk festival stage, an invitation to reflect on the hectic pace of life and embrace a stripped-down existence, at least for the duration of the performance. Such is the spirit embodied by MayMay’s self-titled debut EP. Grounded in the ethos of folk, the four-piece from Oregon subscribe to a minimalist aesthetic, with the presentation of their instruments following a subtle path. Individually the songs celebrate the beauty of simplicity, but the EP does not present well as a whole, with repeated elements feeling overused.
‘Born Fables’, the opening track, introduces us to harmonies that are soft and oddly seductive. Perhaps the seduction lies in Laurel Simmons’ vocal range which is initially limited but gives the impression she might be hiding some power. Sadly, that belief never comes to fruition and Laurel’s pitch and tone feel stagnated throughout the five song EP. Nevertheless, in isolation, the first track sounds and feels great. Armed with only a mouth harp, a glockenspiel, and the ever-present acoustic guitar, the canvas is minimal yet pleasing and the opener easily achieves that meditative, calming state.
‘All Is Still’ begins where the lead track ends with the guitar following a similar pattern and metre, almost as if the first song never finished. A slightly different feel is achieved with a few select strings moving to a quiet crescendo and providing an understated richness that complements the vocals. But it is at this point that the difficulty of discerning the lyrics, and the considerable strain required to make out become problematic: although the odd line stands out from the organic fabric, allowing a glimpse into the heart of the matter, the poetry is mostly hidden. Overall, there is not a strong storytelling element to the album, considerably reducing the seductive elements, and the potential for intensity in the vocals. This cycle continues as the tracks wind their way through to the final phrases, the album blending together without many memorable, standout moments.
Something completely different happens when you leave plenty of time between each song. On their own, the tracks are enjoyable and powerful. In isolation and over lengthy period, MayMay’s minimalist approach is inviting and reflective providing a beautifully morose backdrop to a Sunday afternoon. The album, then, is best enjoyed over a stretch of days rather than all at once. Mix up the songs in your favourite folk playlist and you won’t be disappointed.