Big Little Lions, 'A Little Frayed, A Little Torn'—Album Review

Folk-pop duo Big Little Lions—comprised of accomplished musician Paul Otten and award-winning author Helen Austen—have cleverly woven together charming fables and a grounded well-spring of human emotion on their just-released debut full-length titled A Little Frayed, A Little Torn. Composed of 12 diverse, completely moving tracks, the fierce singer-songwriters never shy away from powerfully stunning and gritty pieces ("Save Yourself," "Fire Me Up") and more breezy ventures ("The Road with You," "Closer"). They've interlocked each with a tornado-sized calm that sweeps across the vast wasteland of pop music with a gutsy (sometimes delightful) wind.

There's nothing they can't do, as they unravel thoughtful and passionate tales about living. "Stories" is an especially captivating piece that details the stories that we will tell ourselves in our dying moments about how we lived on this earth. "Stories we have that we tell ourselves, stories that bend with time. His stories change the books on the shelf, pages that need a re-write," they harmoniously croon on the song's blistering opening line, leading into the hook. "All these words we leave behind, all these thoughts are chased away by bottles of wine." Otten and Austin's simple (yet powerful) vocal here is particularly expressive; certainly any listener will be driven to tears.

"Watered Down," "I'll Find You" and "Another Life" are strung together (one in the first half, one at the core, the last in the second) as the backbone of the album: stretching the sides of their creativity and breathing with a heavy sigh. Their commentary on what it means to be a flawed human being is a marvelous spectacle, gracefully hinged together with harrowing and wistful knowledge. There are fringes of sorrow throughout these tracks (and many others, like the haunted "Hiding Place") that aren't meant to shame the listener, but instead propel them into a new realm of thinking. It's the cohesiveness, too, of Frayed that buoys the album as one of the finest and most organic releases of 2015.

Of course, the album isn't all doom 'n gloom. They deliver some engrossing giddy-pop melodies that are ear worms burrowing into a beautifully chiseled mahogany wardrobe. "The Time is Now," "Every Time" and "They Know My Name" are stellar examples of what the duo does best: create a soaring atmospheric experience that flies through the air at the speed of light. Even when they whip through the sky like an acrobat, their music, arrangements and lyrics are rooted in humanity. A Little Frayed, A Little Torn is like a stroll in a golden wheat field during harvest time, with the sun hot overhead: you might sweat a little, fall down and get your knees dirty but at the end of your journey, you are far better off than when you began.

Must-Listen Tracks: "The Time is Now," "Stories," "Save Yourself," "Fire Me Up"

Grade: 4/5

Make sure you grab a copy of Big Little Lions' A Little Frayed, A Little Torn on iTunes now!

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