There’s something ever, ever so slightly unhinged about the Erickson sisters’ basic Indigo Girls-ishness that I find immediately fetching. First, the obligatory acoustic-guitar-strumming intro itself is a bit off-kilter, aligning insistently with the in-between beat (i.e. the “and” in the “one-and-two-and-three…”). When the singing starts, it’s not yet the sweet, harmony-laced offering one might expect from singing sisters with guitars but rather a blurted, conversational, idiosyncratically-phrased vocal from Bethany. And when she’s finally joined by her sister Jennifer, the first harmony we get is actually dissonant (check out the “oo”-ing at about 0:27). Even the chorus, with its delightful, light-stepping, drum-brushed momentum, has a vaguely off-center feel, thanks to how the melody lags friskily behind the song’s driving beat.
And yet the Ericksons are not actively quirky in the manner of, say, Ani DiFranco, or, for that matter, any of the so-called “freak folk” crowd. If anything, the cumulative effect of the peppy “Box of Letters” is of two performers who are, simply, loose and unaffected. The song’s quiet eccentricities—many of which have to do with vocal phrasing—seem organic rather than mannered, and each delivers a pleasant little surprise when encountered. I particularly like the crazy little flourish the women give to their “oo-oos” around 1:54, and the way the song ends with the instruments fading away while the sung note is held maybe a tad longer than expected.
“Box of Letters” is from the album Don’t Be Scared, Don’t Be Alarmed, the duo’s second, released this past fall. Thanks to Robbie at Girlysounds for the head’s up.