Album Review: Upstate — ‘Healing’

If you have a weakness for harmonies and down to earth instrumentals, this New York-based six-piece is the band for you. In a way, the aptly named Upstate is a mix of Hanson, Dawes, and Lake Street Drive, making sure to nail each aspect of every song perfectly, but they are still careful to preserve the heart in all of it and are determined to not create something that isn’t fiercely passionate and distinctly them.

This record is the band’s first since shortening their name to Upstate from Upstate Rubdown, and they have since changed up their dynamic, singer/songwriter-wise. While this new record fits their classic, homegrown sound, it’s more experimental than their previous work. The implementation of rock origins, alongside hints of folk instrumentals and R&B arrangements is evident in each track as the album progresses from start to finish.

Healing (Royal Potato Family)is not a concept album, it’s not stagnant, and it does not need to be listened to cover to cover for you to feel its warmth and its heart. It opens up with the title track that showcases a strong bass line, a twinkling piano breakdown, a delicious three-part harmony, and a choir of stellar notes and runs that you’ll only grow to love more throughout the entirety of the record. It’s got soul in a way that not many modern bands can really tap into emotionally and not just vocally.

The melody in “Mother” accompanied by its poignant lyrics makes for a stand-out song, one that you’ll surely keep going back to if you love stellar music that takes a hold of you musically and sonically. You can never truly grasp how much a family means to someone or something, and the effect that it has on life, but songs like “Mother” let you in on that feeling, that influence, and that raw part of life. The introduction of Christin Joao’s horn section adds another texture to an already diverse, harmonic, jazz-esque song. The lyrics’ element of honesty shines through and, upon hearing about the inspiration behind the song, it is an equally inspiring and potent track off Healing. It only made me love the song more, interpreting the song in a more in-depth way.

“My mom taught me how to stand up for myself and how to be strong and have a voice, and this song was very much inspired by her,” vocalist Mary Kenney has said about “Mother.” “But it’s also a very honest song about what’s happening in the world today, how women are finally feeling able to speak up and tell their truth.”

Upstate used this album to speak personal truths such as these, dive head first into this new era of theirs, and experiment with what they can do as musicians, vocalists, and creative forces. Healing is about just that: healing, patching up holes, bringing yourself into a better place by all means necessary, self-reflection, and growth. All six members understood that and made sure to convey that message in their music, making listening to it a powerful experience unto itself.