Real Life by Crooks & Nannies Album Review by Ryan Meyer for Northern Transmissions


Real Time

Crooks & Nannies

Philadelphia duo Crooks and Nannies released their third album and first in over seven years, Real Life, on August 25th, via Grand Jury (Samia, Hovvdy, Rubble Bucket).

The group, which consists of Sam Huntington and Max Rafter, develops an intimate atmosphere over the course of the half-hour record. The songs revolve around mostly acoustic guitar beginnings but are enhanced by various methods of instrumentation, not excluding starry synths, banjo fingerpicking and one solitary saxophone break, perfectly placed in the delightfully sweet-sounding closer “Nice Night.”

Real Life begins with the starkest of notes in “N95,” a song that begins with desolate Slint-like guitar harmonics but concludes with an atmospheric finish, lush with a harmony that stretches the song’s last word over a minute of overdriven riffing.

The song is about Huntington’s father, who was terminally diagnosed with cancer in 2020 as Huntington started hormone therapy. Her writing is crushingly simple, pulling no punches in just 11 lines that paint a picture of loss and transition coinciding.

There’s nothing inherently complex about Real Life; instead, the duo create magic by decorating simple compositions with strokes of color by way of synths and ambient noise, like the summer hum that launches the record. There’s beauty to be found in the subtleties, not to mention the compositions’ skeletons themselves being worth full attention. The electric guitar riff that swirls throughout “Weather” can’t be more than two arpeggiated chords, yet the attention to tone can take your breath away in its size and sheer scope.

As delicate and intimate as the record can be, it’s also capable of showing no restraint, as heard in the screaming climax of the second track, “Temper.”

The aforementioned “Nice Night” is another brief bit of poetry, rich with small-town imagery cast over a canvas of soft, delicate synths and a soulful sax solo, embellished by sparkling keyboards at the end of each bar.

With Real Life, Crooks and Nannies provide a creative, fresh spin on Americana music, while also offering cathartic bombast in ways that leave the listener wanting more. The climaxes aren’t overwrought but rather intensely rewarding. It’s a record for sending summer on its way and greeting the reflective embrace of fall. An addition to a genre that, when done right, which Real Life is, can never have enough.

Order Real Life by Crooks & Nannies HERE

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