Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Song for Obol” by Arborea from the 2011 album Red Planet on Strange Attractors Audio House.
The indie folk-rock duo Arborea hails from Maine, an earthy enough beginning for husband-wife founders Buck and Shanti Curran. Since their inception in 2005, the pair have been touring off and on behind two albums of catchy, woodsy folk, performing alongside performers such as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. Both members of the band are multi-instrumentalists: Buck plays guitar, slide guitars, bowed strings, flutes, banjo, and backing vocals, while Shanti provides lead vocals, banjo, ukulele, bowed strings, harmonium, and percussion. Now, they’re celebrating the release of their fourth and latest album, Red Planet, which incorporates newer elements like cello into the mix.
Today’s featured song, however, showcases a different side of Arborea — a stripped-down banjo accompaniment supports Shanti’s hallowed vocals, jerking you out of your seat and planting you firmly against a tree in the forest. Elfin, almost mystical in its soprano, Shanti’s unique lyrical delivery and soft fingerplucking call to mind a time long past. Her closest vocal relative may be the Marissa Nadler, the acclaimed singer-songwriter whose mastery of melancholy could make a puppy cry, but Shanti’s vocals add a hint of optimism, a sprinkle of hope that settles on the leaves.
Below, check out a happier cut, with the video for “River and Rapids”: