Arc Iris – Arc Iris (2014): Review


The decision made by multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams to cut ties with her band Low Anthem in 2013 has conclusively proved to be a progressive step. Her new band, Arc Iris, have emerged with the kind of stylistically challenging recording that even the previous collective would have never had the nerve to attempt. Covering an exhaustive genre hop, the self titled debut is influenced and contains direct musical references to pop, folk, country, Cabaret, jazz and classical. In addition there’s a multitude of instruments to arrest the senses, all serving up equal measures of complexity and intrigue. With such a multi faceted concoction of songs there is an occasional disjointed inaccessibility, but on the whole it’s a compelling first outing by the former NASA technician. What maintains the level of interest intact are the simple melodies that lie at the heart of almost every song. Adams’ vocals bear a resemblance to Joanna Newsom, with a childlike fragility that’s particularly noticeable when the instrumentation is hushed.


The frivolous opener “Money Gnomes” skips from banjo led country/folk tune to baroque styled waltz, addressing the gluttony that comes with wealth. “Lost On Me” is more deliberately paced to highlight Adams’ fragile vocal tones over a gentle piano led arrangement. The thrilling bar room shuffle of “Singing So Sweetly” sounds like it belongs to a prohibition era movie soundtrack, and the doo wop flush of “Ditch” hides dark messages of joining her loved one in death. The quality continues throughout and indeed, the two best moments from the album come in the second half. “Honor Of The Rainbows II” is a beautiful drifting ballad that combines piano, slide guitar, strings and horns which swirl around Adams’ breathy vocal. “Swimming” is positively jaunty in comparison with a stomping instrumental chorus that skips in and out, leading to a powerful crescendo that sees the singers’ melodious “ah’s” sung with a rare vigour.

“Arc Iris” is a confident and adventurous album. There are genuine moments that sparkle and one feels that if she can reduce the amalgam of genres into something more succinct, less scattergun, then we have a really important artist in our midst.


Track Rating
1 – Money Gnomes 8
2 – Lost On Me 8
3 – Whiskey Man 6
4 – Canadian Cowboy 6
5 – Singing So Sweetly 8
6 – Ditch 8
7 – Honor Of The Rainbows I 6
8 – Honor Of The Rainbows II 8
9 – Powder Train 7
10 – Might I Deserve To Have A Dream 6
11 – Swimming 9

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