Remain is the first release from Nothing About Grover, a quartet from the Mad River Valley by way of Connecticut. It's an ambitious record; each of the 14 songs was written and recorded by the band with no outside help. That is, other than the contributions of some Fayston Elementary School students who sing on the song "Snow Day."
NAG's debut is very clearly the product of the digital home-recording era. Every-thing is crystal-clear, sonically speaking. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the recording does sound a tad sterile as a whole.
The disc kicks off with "Dusk," a tune that wouldn't sound out of place on a Sunday evening ambient music program on public radio. A female vocal drenched in reverb accompanies a two-chord, fingerpicked acoustic guitar figure. Nature sounds in the background heighten the otherworldly vibe. Pleasant enough, but the song fails to develop into much of anything.
Interestingly, the opening cut isn't at all representative of the band's sound. When the drums on the subsequent song, "Sidewalks and Shores," kicked in, I thought my CD player was accidentally on shuffle.
Band members Tara Orion and James Kinne wrote all of the songs on Remain, and they try their hand at a few different styles. World-beat, folk, New Age and guitar rock are all represented. This something-for-everyone approach has a crucial flaw: Listeners will probably have to skip through cuts they don't like before finding one they do.
In a record that attempts to tie so many disparate styles together, Orion's vocals are the strongest unifying element. Her voice, confident and relaxed, is a big asset to this band. "Tulip Tree" in particular stands out due to Orion's engaging performance. I also enjoyed the tune's spare, folksy arrangement; NAG sound the most at home in this mode.
Remain boasts some solid musicianship, so it might be worthwhile to check them out live. You'll have three chances to do so this week: at the UVM Rocks Showdown at Higher Ground on Friday, April 7, Radio Bean on Saturday, April 8, and Nectar's on Wednesday, April 12.