I love the way that the band name, Needle and Gem, flows off the tongue. The imagery it evokes and the soft syllables of each of the words accurately depicts the duo’s (made up of Eric You and Rebecca Jung) sound; hushed and precious.
Needle and Gem’s EP from this May, Before Dawn, will appeal to fans of prominent US indie folk musicians like Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine, Damien Rice, or Bon Iver. Their sound is extremely reminiscent of this style – and to a fault, I’d argue. The vocal aesthetic, melodies, harmonies, and arrangements are so imitative that there is little room left for creativity or individuality.
So in terms of sound, Needle and Gem fail to offer anything exciting. However, that doesn’t mean that the album has redeeming micro qualities. There are a handful of stunning moments in the album, such as the fragility of “Can I Stay”, when Eric You hums over string harmonics in “Dawn”, and “Don’t Be”’s captivating lyrics. I respect Needle and Gem’s restraint and their ease with silence. The music seems earnest and personal, which keeps me from writing off the group.
If you’re looking for a placid, thoughtful album to keep you company, Before Dawn slips into that role pretty well. Although I want Needle and Gem to be less conservative and to show their individual colors more, there is something to be said for how peaceful the album made me feel after listening to it. I think Needle and Gem is on to something, but I’d like to see them take more risks in the future.