It seems only natural for Elephant Revival to release their newest album, Petals, as the first signs of spring fill the land. With their newest work, the band continues to push the boundaries of their wholly unique sound while still maintaining the restraint and gravity of their previous repertoire. Their hallmark always been a breathtaking mixture of intricate delicacy and bursting dynamism that irresistibly entices listeners into a dreamscape of beauty, hope and wonder. Petals serves as a signpost, marking the band’s progression along their winding journey, finding them bravely expanding and refining their sonic horizons to extraordinary results.

Utilizing whisper-quiet lyrical passages and mournful bowed notes to bewitch and beguile the listener, then bombastic eruptions of furious flourishes and flurries, Elephant Revival has forged a set of sonic tools that can build a framework for the expression of any thought or emotion. Their mixture of lush string arrangements counter pointed by staccato percussion and thrashing tempos recalls both classical compositions and the build and release mentality of the grunge movement. This mixture of restraint and abandon is harnessed to great effect on this latest recording. Artfully combining their sound with shared mystical, evocative lyrical sensibility by the bands writers imbues the material with a pervasive dream-like quality.

A lot has happened with Elephant Revival between their previous studio recording, 2013’s These Changing Skies, and Petals. Their skills have been honed, their comfort and confidence continues to grow, and founding member and multi-instrumentalist Sage Cook has stepped back from the band to focus on other goals. Though Cook’s voice and song writing talents are missed, the focus on the two remaining main vocalists, Bonnie Paine and Daniel Rodriguez gives Petals, and the band, a more cohesive identity. To fill the vast void of the talented Cook’s absence, the band enlisted longtime friend and talented multi-instrumentalist Charlie Rose.

The newest Rose in this musical bouquet proves himself to be a able bodied multi-instrumentalist, a skill he shares with the rest of the band, along with the surname of bandmate and thumping bassist Dango Rose. This ability to think laterally in terms of instrumentation enriches each players ability to anticipate and appreciate where their bandmate is going, and trust in their eventual arrival. Be it the ethereal beauty of Paine’s voice, the insight and imagery of Rodriguez’s song writing or the flexibility violinist Bridget Law shows weaving between them all, each of the five players brings something completely their own to the concoction. Petals finds them breaking previous boundaries in formula and style thanks to the confidence they’ve built in their strengths as a whole.

Listen to the album below, and follow along with our track-by-track breakdown of the new release:

1. Hello You Who

Elephant Revival’s newest member wastes no time making his presence felt, as the first notes on the disc are longing notes belonging to Charlie Rose’s pedal steel guitar. It’s not long before those notes fade and a simple jazzy bassline provides Bonnie Paine an opportunity to show off a jazzy side of her remarkable vocal prowess. She imbues lines like “All I have to offer…it’s for you” with a vulnerability and sentiment that is familiar to all who’ve found themselves consumed by love. With only Dango Rose’s plucked bass to act as a percussive base, the track features a slow building confederation of cello, pedal steel and far away violin fills that swell but never overflow. Settling back down to the simplicity of Paine and Dango’s complimentary back and forth fades to nothingness while perfectly setting the tone for the music to come.

2. Peace Tonight

Following the desert valley beauty of the previous song with a strong percussive force, the second track features the first duet of the album between Paine and Rodriguez. The transformative manner in which their masculine and feminine voices compliment each other is one facet of Elephant Revival’s whole that needs no re-examining. The various stringed instruments float along so amazingly, thanks to remarkable production work by Sam Kassirer at his nature retreat/recording studio Great North Sound Society. The finest compliment you can give a producer or engineer is that you couldn’t hear them do anything at all, and Kassirer and his team did an incredible job letting the instruments speak for themselves. Thanks to those efforts Peace Tonight’s” wish that all the troubled souls know calm rings through clear as a bell.

3. Petals

The title track starts with an almost industrial feel, with short, sharp drum splashes echoing a purposeful, mechanical timing that the rest of the band swirled around archly. Paine authored this track along with many others on the cello, an instrument she’s recently added to her onstage diverse collection of music making tools. A tonal singing break by Paine halfway through the number is given a strong classical touch, thanks to the plucked cello strings and bowed accompaniment. The shortest song of the collection, yet one of the widest ranging in regards to their overall sound.

4. On And On

Daniel Rodriguez often invokes the concept of motion in his lyrics, and “On And On” rides an undercurrent flowing back and forth between verse and chorus that pulls you inexorably forward. One of the most accessible songs of the collection, its radio and soundtrack ready nature is a bit of a Trojan horse, as the depth of the song’s message of perseverance is not determined by the complexity of the music accompanying it.

5. Raindrops

Speaking of themes from the band’s composers, there is no subject the band has touched on more frequently than the movement and flow of water. It’s served as a metaphor for everything from the circle of life to the march of time, but here it seems to serves as a restrained setting for a meditation on the importance of connecting with nature. Paine’s angelic overtones give way to the first featured display of Bridget Law’s prowess on the violin. Though capable of shredding with the best of them, Law excels in her long, supportive droning notes that she frequently contributes. Truly though, Law is at her finest when given a space to explore and call her own, as she is here. Her work here is a high point.

6. Season Song

The musical saw joins the procession of bowed instruments, with Bonnie Paine adding an other worldly tone to this second true duet of the collection. Again Rodriguez imparts a sense of momentum, this time using the cycle of the seasons to touch on the progressions of the days of our lives. Death and rebirth is a lesson the world teaches us by example as the world spins on it’s axis and around the sun. The benefit of holding on to the important things in life to keep spirits high on the coldest of nights is made in a heartfelt and moving way.

7. Furthest Shore

Easily one of the most idiosyncratic songs of the collection, “Furthest Shore” is as close to an authentic old time sea shanty as is imaginable. Given the band’s embracing of clearly recorded acoustic instruments, it’s not hard to imagine they could have just as easily played this song four hundreds years ago in some pirate-infested port of call. A prodding bass cadence overlapped by a short, quick repetitive cello bowing gives an added dimension of urgency to Paine’s ode to the ocean’s siren call.

8. Sea Monster

Charlie Rose’s banjo skills make their first memorable appearance of the disc, his looping refrain gaining a middle eastern aspect thanks to its droning, repetitive nature. A slow build begins with the onset of the second verse, with the addition of a driving beat and swirling strings expanding towards a bridge that gives us a charismatic call to expand our horizons. Again the remarkable restraint of the band holds the listener rapt, as the anticipation of the sure to be coming burst of energy builds and builds until every element introduced thus far surges together and the five musicians are united in elation before slowly coming apart and fading into nothingness.

9. When I Fall

Bassist Dango Rose contributes the next song, though Rodriguez and Paine handle the vocal duties. Another broad step away from Elephant Revival’s more established sound, the song has a dirge-like feel with glimmers of hope that give way to a heavier bass progression. The song’s heavier, plodding elements set it in high contrast to the spiritual material that proceeded it. Rose’s contribution shows how far the groups sonic formula can be stretched and offers interesting potential for future works.

10. Home In Your Heart

Well-chosen song placement sees the previous track’s theme of falling echoed in the first line of the next, with the opening words “Falling Down” sung against a simple acoustic guitar strumming. Serving as a summation of the entire projects theme, the final Rodriguez penned entry touches one last time of the concepts of staying the course, movement and the flow of water. The thought that life isn’t to be controlled and the importance of freeing yourself from that desire is shared in a warm way that serves as a gentle protestation against determinism. Again, the strength the band shows in restraint is palpable. While such an obviously important topic to the writer is presented in such a non-confrontational manner, the urge to recoil against stridency is stifled and a real opportunity for a musical dialog between band and song is established.

11. Close As Can Be

The album closer brings a final chance for Paine to blend her voice with the more plaintive and expressive nature of the soaring movements of the strings. The rest of the band provides a choir that evokes the spiritual without the divisiveness the iconography of faith often entails. The imagery of loss and leaving is used in a positive way, lauding the joyous reunions that can only be had after such a separation. It’s a bittersweet notion that reminds the listener that though this encounter may be at an end, that ending just makes the meetings to come all the better.

In crafting eleven songs of lilting beauty and studied insight, Elephant Revival has done more than simply expand their repertoire; they’ve managed to use their unique collaborative voice to speak as one. Though their individual roles are well defined within the sonic spaces, each player is given a chance to not only shine but to advance their development as musicians. Given the timeless, effortlessly powerful style that they have created on previous efforts the band would have been forgiven for playing it safe and sticking to what brought them to international acclaim. But, as the words and music clearly show them to agree, the only true path to fulfillment lies in moving forward past complacency and strife towards love and hope. As messages go, it’s hard to think of any more needed, or a band better suited to deliver it.

Elephant Revival’s new release, Petals, is available here