Critical Voices: The Ripples, The First Few

November 20, 2013

On Saturday Nov. 23, The Ripples, a Georgetown student band, will drop a pebble in the vast lake of the music world, hoping to create waves that disrupt our collective conscience.

The Ripples’ music contains clear influences from the activist folk music of the 1960s, when times were hard and simple instrumentation brought people together. The voices of music’s greatest storytellers, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, are readily available in the smooth and straightforward crooning vocals and the intelligible harmonic patterns that the band maintains through the entire LP.  This is accompanied by a setup of guitar, piano, and drums, which are supplanted by organ and bass to round out and finish the sound. The result is a refreshingly relatable groove that holds during the whole album and defies popular music’s tendency toward over-production and labyrinthine melodies.

One song where this simplicity shines through is “Afternoon Alone,” which falls toward the end of the album’s short 40-minute run. The song begins as many archetypal folk songs do, with a simple guitar introduction. The strumming is soon joined by the rough vocals of Tyler Pierce. He speaks of “homeless city busker” who “lets his weathered words fall where they land” as the piano and a sparse bass line join the song. The poetic imagery surrounding such a small afternoon encounter harkens back to the use of parable that defines the traditional folk style that The Ripples inhabit.

The problem with this style, however, is that it proves difficult to maintain over the course of an album while still creating distinct pieces of music. The First Few falls into this trap. After listening to ten songs with similar instrumentations, harmonic patters, rhythms, and even harmonica solos, I found it difficult to distinguish and appreciate each song individually. The style that is initially refreshing becomes a little bland after it’s been re-hashed for the tenth time. This is not necessarily the fault of The Ripples. It’s more a problem of the genre as a whole that was initially masked by important cultural messages and hallucinogenic drugs.

Overall, though, the album is good and certainly displays a lot of potential for musical growth: I have high hopes for the next few.


Voice’s Choices: “Fiona Gotcha Goin,” “Afternoon Alone”

Daniel Varghese
Daniel was an editor at the Voice from December 2013 to November 2016. He loved it. Follow him on Twitter @drvarg01 for his thoughts on Global Health and Kanye West.


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