A winter wind blows through the heart of Bellafea’s Family Tree EP, both in references to seasonal cold and in the dim, gray mood that lingers about the songs. Singer/guitarist Heather McEntire sings with hushed, breathy care, conjuring in her timorous little-girl vocals a child peering from behind the curtains at a stark, unforgiving world.
Like her friend Aimee Argote (Des_Ark), who contributes vocals on the pretty, pastoral elegy to a doomed relation, “While We Are Still Young,” McEntire’s music is distinguished by its dynamism. Like a sudden squall that blows in rapidly on a previously clear day, songs such as the tense, ragged-edged “Tara” simmer in a lurching lope before erupting like a can of Coke that’s been banging around a NASCAR floorboard.
These loud/soft moments are put into bas-relief by the spare, spacious production, which creates austere environs for McEntire to project her emotional, guitar-fueled outbursts that bracket the otherwise tender drift. When she gives over completely to her quieter impulses–as on the album-closing title track–the result is quiet, haunted, almost gothic, like the dry rustic songs of Smog or Will Oldham.
The highlight of the album is “Seasons,” which epitomizes the album’s more restrained tone versus their bracing live performances. With a sweet, somber attitude, it floats on a bubbling melodic line with a surplus of peppy indie pop bounce, strangely reminiscent of early Juliana Hatfield. Toss in the long, largely instrumental, experimental rock track “Thorn Bird,” and you have an eclectic batch of songs that paints a picture of an act that continues to stretch and grow.