Husband-wife duo Troy & Paula Haag are back at it again with their second full-length folk release, Migrate. In that their first full-length album was only released in 2012, they are fairly new on the music scene. But their music has such a nostalgic feel to it, you could imagine that they’ve been playing for quite a while.
“A Tale In Hard Times” is the first track off the album. They integrate peppy melodies into their work, which is what makes their tracks so memorable. Their use of vocal harmonies is on point as well; there’s not too little, and not too much at the same time. Troy works to provide lead vocals while Paula chimes in during key moments to compliment his sound. Together with their instrumentation, the duo is able to create quite a moving set of tracks.
The album is rooted in acoustic guitar work, and they utilize the style to the fullest through a focus on guitar picking, such as in “Touch,” where the guitar is a primary focus of the track. The final track, “Lies & Cries,” is another example of this. Because it’s an entirely instrumental track, the duo’s musical talent is put on display. However, it might have worked better situated between two other tracks instead of as a conclusion to the album.
Troy’s upbringing also happens to play a huge part in their music. Because he was born in Hawaii, there is a slight island feel to their songs. This appears most in tracks like “Another Tale In Hard Times” and “Used Up.”
“27” is perhaps one of the most memorable tracks on the release. In it, Troy sings of how so many celebrities have died at the age of 27. In the chorus he sings, “Death by misadventure; death by screwin’ up,” and goes on to list some of the ways they have met their fate.
There are a lot of interesting lines in their work. One line in particular that stands out can be found in “Cries & Lies.” Troy sings, “Like any good tale, would you rather be covered by truth or covered in glory?” What’s more, is that you even get a little history lesson while listening. In “This is How it Feels,” for instance, Troy references Madame Bovary. There’s even a track called “Emily Dickenson’s Daughter.” “27,” which references literary figures such as William Blake and Robert Frost, is another example of this.
Although Troy and Paula are only a duo, you can hear everything from mandolin and harmonica to piano and clarinet, which is another reason this album is such an interesting one. The songs draw parallels to 60s folk music. They’re like a 21st century Peter, Paul and Mary. But at the same time, there’s something modern about their music as well; they cite acts such as Iron & Wine and Gillian Welch as some of their influences, and by supplying their songs with peppy melodies, they find a way to traverse multiple genres.
The Century, the duo’s first album, was a purposefully stripped down release. Migrate, on the other hand, was composed as an exploration of both their studio abilities as well as their musical style. The duo has done some growing in the past few years, and what has resulted is an album that’s even more enjoyable than the first.
And while male/female duos are a dime a dozen, when they’re done right, they can really stand out. Troy & Paula are one of these acts. Their vocal harmonies are what really solidify this release. Put Migrate on the top of your list of albums to listen to; you don’t want to miss this one.
Artist: Troy & Paula Haag
Review by Alec Cunningham
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)