Boxstep earned a fast name for themselves with their hybrid of moving, string-drenched passages and earnest, textured Americana, and sought to make a strong opening argument for attention with The Faces All Look On. Indeed, by the time the opener, "Ryan's Glacier," rolls past, all strings and reverb-heavy guitar, it's clear that Boxstep's debut is well-realized. The playing is expressive, the arrangement smart and pretty, and the song itself succeeds on its own terms, ebbing and flowing, building momentum, and drawing the listener in. But cracks are also apparent. Singer Eric Graf's voice is tuneful but pedestrian at best, a fact rendered painfully obvious by the clean mix, which gives it priority, and the glowing quality of the music in general. It's also clear that Boxstep has a better hold on shifting dynamics and textures than songwriting. The charming "My Slate Roof," "Irish Elk," and the majority of the tracks on the album scroll by without distinguishing themselves, their arrangements suggesting something profound but the songs themselves failing to make the connection. Still, The Faces All Look On is not without its merits, many of which reveal themselves upon repeated listens. David Wallace's guitar playing is impressively lyrical, Erin Hutter's viola and violin are effective but not overbearing, and the rhythm section is evocative and solid. When it all comes together, like on the languid "Love That Well," it's powerful stuff. Even when it doesn't, it's pleasant, soothing, and inherently listenable. All in all, it's a good, vaguely unsatisfying first step.
The Faces All Look On Review
by Steve May