On their sophomore album, And Now We Sing, Olenka & the Autumn Lovers deliver exactly what they promise. With no indie-rock pretension or clutter, the London, Ontario six-piece leaps immediately into an irresistible collection of Eastern European-inflected folk tunes that capture the redemptive flashes of brilliance in even the most dismal corners.
It’s rare to come across an album with so few missteps. As a PhD student in English, Krakus might be expected to have a wordy, dense narrative style. As it turns out, her education mostly manifests itself in simple and evocative writing that knows where to embellish and where to leave well enough alone. Meanwhile, her rhythmic, syncopated vocal technique functions like an all-purpose instrument, imitating a xylophone and a violin in almost the same breath. Combining this with the heavy string section and tasteful use of trumpet, the band’s overall sound is reminiscent of both My Brightest Diamond and the Decemberists but is derivative of neither.
With the whole album clocking at just over 40 minutes, And Now We Sing is barely long enough to fill up an entire commute. In that time, it whirls you down alleyways and through churchyards, through country romps and Balkan stomps at a fierce pace that only occasionally slows up for a folk dance.
Opener and standout track “Odessa” is exemplary of the amount of content Krakus can pack into no time at all: In just under two minutes, the titular character watches each of her family members collapse under the weight of their problems. It is hectic and bleak, but the crunchy guitars and relentlessly catchy melody make it go down so easy that by the time it’s over you’ll barely remember where you are or what you were doing.