Saturday, March 9, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Tal & Acacia "Black and White"

Tal & Acacia
Black and White

Q: What's a pop duo to do after
creating the perfect debut record?

A: Cut major label ties, take
three years to write a treasure
trove of new songs and release
another perfect record.

Simply put, sisters Talitha and Acacia Walters-Wulfing are angels sent by God to speak to, encourage and inspire the "Gangnam" generation through some of the most delightful, delicious and well-crafted pop music — ever.

T&A's debut record Wake Me arrived in stores and at online retailers in 2010 via the Provident / Sony label. The record garnered national radio airplay over the next two years as the duo toured the U.S. extensively and their songs were placed prominently in both movie and television soundtracks.

With the 2013 release of their self-produced, independently released sophomore effort, Black and  White, Tal & Acacia have further spread their creative wings — delivering a rock solid piece of work that exemplifies their ever-increasing songwriting maturity and offering highlights galore!

Tal & Acacia live onstage circa 2011.
Signature-sounding tracks such as "Once Upon a Time" and "Shoulders" further showcase the duo's retro-sounding, high energy, Go-Go pop style. And with its super groovy "Ooh, la da, dee la, da" sing-along chorus, "That's Me" is also a solid gem.

However, despite my personal penchant for their snappier ditties, a few of the record's slower tempo tunes actually shine the brightest. Clearly referencing Matthew 7:9, the brilliant, blues-flavored  "Stone" addresses a personal parent / child-type love relationship with Jesus Christ. Along with "Ninety-Three," "Stone" displays beautifully a Richard Carpenter-like vocal arrangement that is key to the T&A sound.

"I will not give you a stone, 
when you're asking for bread.
No I will not leave you alone 
when my child is cryin'."
From "Stone" 
(Written by Talitha Walters-Wulfing)

"You parents — if your 
children ask for a loaf
of bread, do you give 
them a stone instead?"
-Jesus Christ
(Matthew 7:9 - NLT)

Delicate, yet infectious, "Hands" not only is the crown jewel of the record, it also serves as a vivid audio snapshot of the duo at their absolute best. In fact, it likely will soon prompt intergalactic hipsters to ask earnestly, "Adele who?"

Recorded, engineered and mixed by Joe Hutchinson at Carport Studios in Nashville, Black and White sounds more organic and less electronic than Wake Me. And in addition to the sisters' own vocal, guitar and keyboard contributions, the support cast of bassist Loren "Snoopy" Clark, drummer Kyle Hicks, violinist Jesse Hale and percussionist Almichael Rodgers also all deliver bona fide rock star performances.

What I continue to find most compelling about Tal & Acacia's music is that they aren't shy about combining a bold, biblical-based message of personal faith with their everyday life experiences. Although it's a road less traveled by many of their contemporaries, it's an honest and refreshing approach that only makes sense, as Christians do fall in and out of love — we walk our dogs, go to the movies and all sorts of other "normal" stuff. Shocking, I know.

But jeez Louise, three years is a flippin' long gap in between records. So, was it worth the wait? Absolutely — Chick-a-cha, indeed!

-Christopher Long
(March 2013)

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