Whilst their Kickstarter-funded tribute-album to the Everly Brothers in 2013 was met with acclaim and well-deserved chart positions, fans have been waiting five years for the Chapin Sisters to put together an LP of original material. “Today’s Not Yesterday”, released on the 18th of October, shall finally fill that gap for those hankering for new songs from Abigail and Lily Chapin.
Recorded in California but mostly written within the arms of New York’s folk scene, the album’s dozen tracks flit between neighbouring styles of safe country ballads, folk-pop, and soft rock, and all feature the sisters’ tender harmonies. But while tracks like ‘Angelino’ and ‘Love Come Back’ are fine examples of the duo’s unfaltering vocals, they sit a little too comfortably within country-music familiarity. It’s the deeper – and sometimes darker – songs like opener ‘Autumn’ or the chanting ‘Child’ which are far more worthy of our attention; easily bringing to mind the likes of All About Eve or The Cranberries whenever the pair’s vocals meet and part in gentle swells.
The relatively modest instrumentation throughout the album serves the music well. It’s all precisely arranged and performed, and only very occasionally steps forward as the focus (the mellow guitar-solo of ‘Chasing The Rain’ is a rare treat), which leaves plenty of room for the Chapin Sister’s voices. And that is, after all, what “Today’s Not Yesterday” wants us to notice, albeit rather gingerly. ‘Waiting’, a track that sits – somewhat fittingly – towards the end of the album, finally provides an anticipated moment of a cappella in the intro. It’s curiously brief and simply repeats the title across different harmonic intervals, but it’s a pleasure to hear; it’s just a shame it’s over so quickly and apologetically. An itch barely scratched.
And that is perhaps the one reluctant and unfortunate criticism of the album: at times it is too safe and too understated. Although it feels unfair to pin any kind of complaint upon such a sweetly melodious collection of songs, it’s reasonable to say that a couple of tracks could have been sacrificed without too much debate (I’m sorry, ‘World Is All’, but your siblings are so much brighter), and this would have given the true gems a little more room to stride about with well-earned confidence. Instead, as a whole, “Today’s Not Yesterday” meekly raises a hand.
The Chapin Sisters have created an album that should be praised for its delicacy, and their talent is particularly clear in the softness and natural beauty of their voices – never feeling forced, always sounding effortless – but it misses the chance to celebrate itself. Perhaps folk’s embrace was a little too tight.