Leon casino, Ancient Cat Society. Photo: Lauren Marek
Time is every musician’s best friend. If an act can stay together for long enough, then they should be rewarded with better pay, a larger fanbase, and more opportunities than newer acts. Sometimes, time can also give an artist the right moment to drop a release, even if it’s been sitting on a shelf for a good while. Houston trio Ancient Cat Society seems to be the biggest winner when it comes to time and how to manage it. Their latest album, Ancient Cat Society, has been sitting around for over four years, though it probably would’ve gotten lost in a mix of folk and Americana acts coming out of Brooklyn if it had come out any earlier. The full length release is a testament to friendship, song craft, and three part harmonies that you just don’t get to hear anymore, while hitting with a sincerity and monumental heft without feeling too heavy handed. It’s time for the world to hear the magic within, which might be one of the most beautiful albums to come out in the last five years or more.
Opening with the softer sounds of “Golden Geese,” the three waste no time in placing you under their spell. The balance between Sergio Trevino and Haley Lynch’s vocals create a buttery Southern spread you placed atop the acoustic and pedal steeled sounds that permeate underneath. This is followed by the triple vocal culmination between Trevino, Lynch, and Austin Sepulvado on “The Loneliest Pursuit.” The brush stroked drums, the acoustic strum, and the pedal steel are only brought together by the angelic way in which these three can sing together, offering a sound that bleeds Southern charm without sounding like a country tune, giving the listener the first standout of the album. With the Trevino lead and quicker paced sound of “Honey Honey,” the band spreads their wings by adding a soft undertone between Lynch and Sepulvado as a pedal steel is met with an upright bass that echoes sounds of early American vocal groups of the fifties without sounding dated.
Haley Lynch of Ancient Cat Society. Photo: Lauren Marek
The second standout track, “Do You Feel,” might be one of the most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear. Opening with Lynch’s sweet voiced vocal harmonics met with a mixture of Trevino and Sepulvado, there’s an echoing piano that glides on alongside a meandering acoustic guitar that creates sheer magic. Though, Lynch is the definite standout here, the strength behind her vocal range and the sincerity behind how the lyrics come across are that of a time you wished you got to hear more of. A couple of songs later, Trevino reminds you of his strengths as a singer by opening up “Call From Home,” only to have Lynch find her way onto the track and offer up a song that feels a bit different from the honey drenched sounds that came before it. Somber in tone, the song has a more modern feel that pays off as these two stay in the middle spectrum of their vocal registers, with electronic and traditional instruments melded together to craft a song that’s ahead of pretty much anything you’re hearing from anywhere else.
Sergio Trevino of Ancient Cat Society. Photo: Lauren Marek
This continues on the Lynch lead “Why Are You Getting Married,” where the experimental side of these three adds elements of early doo wop including hand claps and and a soft jazz guitar that give you a whole other side to the band. The falsetto leanings of Lynch’s vocals are far away from what you’d expect, while paying off in each and every note. However, all three come back to the earlier sounds of the album on “Hey! Hey!” that gives the listener another stand alone track. The snappy pace of the vocals and the upbeat nature of the song is uplifting and reminiscent of the Southern charm that these three tend to offer up better than anyone else attempting to do so. This stays on the group’s mainstay for live performances with “Carolina.” For anyone who’s caught them perform, the enchanting sound of these three singing in harmony alongside Sepulvado’s soft Fender electric and Trevino’s acoustic will get rewarded with added instrumentation from keys in the distance and an upright that just add to the track’s already charming sound.
Austin Sepulvado of Ancient Cat Society. Photo: Lauren Marek
The album get’s another standout track on the tenth song, “The Leaves,” a soft and captivating tune that holds Lynch just a hair below Trevino on vocals before Sepulvado meets them in the middle, creating a sound that you can’t shake. The vocal strengths of these three cannot go unnoticed, where it’s hard to find a contemporary group to compare to, even when they reach a louder place, the song never loses its charm and is easily one that you’ll find yourself holding onto after just one listen. Of course, the final song of the eleven, “To Reach The Sun,” is another that sticks with you and noodles around your head after it’s done. Lead by Lynch, the sparse instrumentation is masterfully kept that way while Lynch offers up her enchanting voice before Trevino and Sepulvado tenderly find her in the chorus, thus closing things off with a lasting track that would touch even the stoniest soul.
There’s no trick to what Ancient Cat Society is doing here, in fact they may be releasing one of the most earnest albums to come out in a good while. By waiting until things were right to drop their sophomore release, the trio definitely proves that time is on their side, while offering up an album full of songs that feel familiar and timeless.
You can pre-order Ancient Cat Society here, or listen to it on all platforms when it gets released through Houston’s Splice Records on May 26. Ancient Cat Society will perform the album alongside favorites from their debut, on Saturday, May 27 at The Heights Theater. The all ages show has Houston’s Say Girl Say on prior, alongside promised special guests with doors at 7 pm and tickets between $20 and $160, the latter being a seated VIP option.