No matter who you ask in the industry or where you look, there’s no denying that 2023 has been an exceptionally different year for folk music. It’s like the volume has been turned down and all of what would be the most talked about groups in the United States are more interested in going soft than they are turning up the intensity.
But thankfully we can look to the southwest and find none other than siblings Dorsten keeping the flame alive and thriving in their single “To the River,” which is out this fall following up an excellently crafted debut EP London Sessions.
Dorsten doesn’t show any interest in slowing down for anyone, and I’m not just talking about the tempo at which they play their music. “To the River” is hardly an exercise in bucolic wonderment, but there’s a sense of urgency that pushes the band and listeners forward from the commencement of the track. When you’re riding the Dorsten train, there’s no time to look back or see the passing landmarks; we’re compelled to face the brick wall of sound staring us in the face and smash through it like a bull through soft linen. If the experience is too daunting, maybe you don’t belong listening to Americana.
There’s a pastoral edge to “To the River,” but there are also a lot of intricate details that can be found when giving the song a close inspection. Fans with a keen ear for music will notice that even in their most mammoth harmonizing there are countless moving parts churning the sound of the band along, from the calculated bassline to the fierce vocals interwoven amongst the drums. Dorsten gives us a lot to think about, but at the same time their music doesn’t demand an intellectual mind to understand its inner workings.
“To the River” actually has a lot of swing in its step in the vein of more classically styled folk-rock but sans any of the patience that more classically trained players mastered so brilliantly. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that Dorsten constantly reminds us that time is of the essence and if we stop to get hypnotized by the opulence of their tonal presence we could end up getting lost in their rich sound forever. You could describe it as an alt-folk-inspired set of ideals, but I don’t know if there’s been a band with quite the same collective perspective this one has lately.
This band has risen through the ranks to the very top of my “must-see live” list after listening to “To the River” on repeat for the last few days.
There’s no question that Dorsten was designed to enrapture any venue that they play, but this song is almost guaranteed to up their ticket sales by double once it makes its way onto college and specialty radio in 2024. There are big things ahead for this band, and if you consider yourself a hardcore indie rock or folk music fan, you’re all but certain to cross their path soon.