So how about I run it through the old sound-to-words convertor? Well, it’s acoustic folk in the rock sense rather than the polka sense, an amalgam of bestringed instruments (vocal chords included) plus ‘kit. The sort of thing that gets almost token-dropped at around the halfway mark of many an indie album, petering out at around the 2:30 mark, you may think. Obviously it’s better than that, but let me try and impress upon you just how much better. Though they evidently have a veritable raft of acoustic devices on hand, any and all experimentation lends itself to finding melody; never do we have the slightly grating moment of “We’re using a violin in this one to show how progressive we are”. Everything fits – the progression of harmonies are a joy to listen to.
And they are very much a progression. At points where lesser bands would let the piece recycle itself or peter out, you can feel Boat to Row taking a step back, working through and rising above it all with a concurrent, yet fresh iteration. There’s an inventiveness that shines through without ever accrediting itself, a real presence of musicianship. Sure, many a band go unplugged for whatever reason, often with not commendable results. But Boat to Row make it the focus of their work, and thus find depths… well, probably not unplumbed, given how long music in general has been around for, but certainly neglected in favour of the novel or self-acclaiming. I think it goes without saying that Grassmarket is an acoustic EP that reclaims the good name of everything acoustic – and that it’s far from boring.