Gracie and Rachel are a study in duality: light and dark, classical training with a pop sensibility, Californians in New York. On their debut full-length, Gracie and Rachel pit anxiety and tension against an almost serene self-assurance. The duo announced the album in April via NPR alongside the introspective video for “Only A Child.”
Released on June 23rd, the self-titled record quickly won the hearts of NPR fans who voted them to #4 on NPR’s Your Favorite New Artists 2017. Bob Boilen described the music as having “a terrific tension in the sound, an underpinning of mystery set against a baroque, but modern, pop foreground... [Gracie and Rachel is] something that I’m finding myself falling in love with a lot, which is music that has more space in it, and I really like that.” Boilen brought them to the famed NPR Tiny Desk to record a session and later named them to his Top Ten Albums of 2017 and his selection for Slingshot 2018. They have also been featured in Paste (in-studio session), Nylon, Ladygunn, Blackbook, and Under the Radar amongst other notable outlets.
Like their stylized color palette of black and white, the duo’s instrumentation appears simple and spare at first glance, but there’s a powerful prism effect at work in their music that brings us back to the concept of duality: their songs are intimate and expansive, questioning and confident. The creative pair met in high school in Berkeley, California and reunited in Bushwick, Brooklyn, building out a loft to be their home and studio where they crafted this debut.
The duo’s music is a compelling juxtaposition of Gracie’s piano and lead vocals and Rachel’s violin and voice, augmented with stark percussion. The nine orchestral-pop songs on Gracie and Rachel tell a story that’s rooted in the truth —their truth — but retain an enigmatic air that makes them relatable to anyone who has ever found their heart racing with doubt and pushed forward regardless, or triumphed in subverting expectations imposed from without. Baeble Music hailed opener “Tiptoe,” with its eerie ghost tones and taut percussion, as “beautiful and unsettling,” a description that applies to the spacious piano and sympathetic violin on “(Un)comfortable,” or the hammering piano part on “Go,” all the way to the ringing vocals that build to a defiant crescendo on “Don’t Know” to close the record.
Gracie and Rachel’s live performance is a mesmerizing mix of haunting vocals, keyboard and violin accompanied by timpani-like drums, electronic beats and samples. The two play off each other not only musically but mentally. Different shades of the same emotion appear simultaneously on their faces and flow through their instruments. Seen on stages with Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, Joseph, Ani DiFranco, Tall Heights, and San Fermin, the live experience displays an almost tangible quality to their deeply rooted bond, an intimate connection that is vibrantly apparent on stage and equally imprinted on their record.
Invasion Group, Ltd