The Army, The Navy Are Not Your Average Singer-Songwriter Duo

April 8, 2024

Courtesy of The Army, The Navy

Amidst the crowded corner of the singer-songwriter music scene, budding duo The Army, The Navy hold their own with their debut album, Fruit for Flies. Each song is a peephole into their lives, demanding to be listened to for its beauty as well as its subtlety. 

Over the album’s seven songs spanning just 22 minutes, childhood friends Maia Ciambriello and Sasha Goldberg invite listeners to join them in their own little world, producing a sound unlike any other artist out there right now. The opening track, “Play the Music,” ends with a fitting line: “It’s our mind / It’s our mind / It’s our magic.” From the pair’s jazz, pop, folk, and indie rock influences to their crisp vocals and haunting harmonies, the resulting magic is something uniquely theirs. 

Although the band is now based in Los Angeles, the pair studied music in New Orleans, perfecting their craft over the COVID years spent stuck inside. As long-term friends, their close bond shines through in Fruit for Flies, saturating the record with an emotional and aesthetic intimacy that can’t be manufactured or replicated elsewhere. It’s this specific brand of sincerity that instantly sucks you in. 

The album’s penultimate track, “Persimmon,” highlights the duo’s special ability to place a song somewhere between a dream and the ache of reality. Introduced by Ciambriello’s delicate fingerstyle guitar, the track features The Army, The Navy’s signature otherworldly chord progressions. They find these progressions by playing around with shapes and modulations on the acoustic guitar, producing harmonic sequences that suspend notes above dissonance to create floaty, intricate sounds. At the same time, they also know when to pull away, contextualizing their more untraditional harmonies with sudden consonances. 

Lyrically, “Persimmon” is cryptic yet confessional, with just enough realism to make the narrative tangible. The gentleness of lines like “Is it so wrong of me? / Legend has it I’m sentimental” brilliantly contrasts the abruptness of “So fuck that bitch in your story / And fuck me after I guess.” As the song teeters between shy vulnerability and blunt honesty, it lives in a state of limbo, lingering like an emotional earworm. 

The pair doesn’t just write love songs. Ciambriello and Goldberg cover a wide range of themes in the album, from getting too attached in situationships (“BBIDGI”), the stress of a 40-hour work week in the service industry (“Gentle Hellraiser”), to feeling homesick (“Wild Again”). The tact with which they tackle these topics is reminiscent of Adrianne Lenker, bouncing between transcendence and immanence with hyper-specific scenarios (“I slept in ‘till eleven / with the dog on my side / and my foot dangling over the mattress”) and descriptive metaphors (“I spin the whole damn planet / like a gentle hellraiser”). More importantly, their lyricism is balanced; the hyperspecificity grounds the abstract while the abstract turns the ever-real scenarios into something more. In turn, their lyricism evades the all-too-present clichés often found in attempts to be relatable.

Like a musical MO, the duo’s flawless two-part harmony colors every song on the album. When they sing in unison, they sing as one voice and one mind, seamlessly blending to double the melodic line. Split into harmony, the two aren’t afraid to play around with dissonance, their voices weaving in and out of line with one another. 

To avoid the pitfall of genre-pandering that singer-songwriters can easily fall into, Ciambriello and Goldberg offset this hazy, almost post-impressionistic disposition with their dynamic production. “Gentle Hellraiser” and “Wild Again” feature heavier sounds like distortion on the electric guitar and grittier percussion, while the saxophone solo at the end of “Play the Music” embraces R&B and jazz influences reflected in the album’s alternative chord progressions. While none of these elements are revolutionary on their own, blending these sounds on this record puts an unforeseen twist on The Army, The Navy’s folk and pop-heavy music. By bringing together independent musical aspects with intention, The Army, The Navy diversify each song while binding them together as one cohesive unit.  

In recent years, it’s been impossible to escape the waves of singer-songwriters whose art centers sensitivity with softly dissonant acoustic guitars. Artists post self-recorded iPhone videos of themselves singing about heartbreak and mononymous individuals from their pasts in an attempt to promote their authenticity via  “relatable” lo-fi content. Taking a step back from the individual artist, it becomes glaringly obvious that there is an almost indistinguishable mass of media being produced with strikingly similar aesthetic undertones. With indie genres becoming more and more mainstream with artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Lizzy McAlpine, Sufjan Stevens, and Clairo, maintaining originality seems an impossible feat. 

Through all of this, Ciambriello and Goldberg’s ethereal voices cut through the noise, establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Fruit for Flies is a testament to that originality. The two are rapidly gaining a devoted fan base as they attract more and more attention, even touring with headliner Matt Maltese in his North American tour this spring. With their distinct blend of playful mystique and complex emotionality, there’s no doubt that The Army, The Navy are artists to keep an eye out for. 

Voice’s Choices: “Gentle Hellraiser”; “Alexandra”; “Wild Again”

More: , , , , , ,

Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments