You may not realize how much you’ve missed The Staves until you hear Good Woman, the group’s first new album in six years, but it won’t take long. The sister trio — Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor — were primed to begin work on it in 2017 but were derailed by the sudden loss of their mother, individual heartbreak, and the addition of a new baby for one of them. It was a potent mix of the tragedy of unspeakable loss and the euphoria of life, and it ultimately inspired them to create the most powerful music so far in their decade-long run. Good Woman is a celestial entry into the pop sphere, a side-step away from the earthier folk they were making at the start, and the change suits them.
Driven by pulsating drum beats and their signature sugared harmonies, the songs on Good Woman balance sisterhood, motherhood, longing, fear, and doubt. Producer John Congleton (Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten) brings out the brightness, even on the darkest tunes. “Failure,” a song about a painful encounter with a figure from the past at a funeral reception, mines the negativity with a hint of sarcasm and an epic, bursting chorus. “Devotion” works through a toxic partnership amidst twinkling keys, catchy fingersnaps, and the album’s prettiest vocals. And the album’s title track defiantly pushes back against expectations, starting slow and steady and growing anticipation as it builds. “Best Friend” finds the beautiful feeling of invincibility through a nostalgic lens and glowy “oohs” and “aahs.” The stunning “Sparks” pays tribute to the spirit of the sisters’ mother, whose empty house brings back memories and watches over them. “Next Year, Next Time” is a hazy, hopeful — and oddly prescient — look to a rosier future.
The addition of synth and big, lush instrumentals suggest an awakening and a way forward, even through the toughest of times. Good Woman seems to announce that The Staves are back. It is strong and bold. You can dance to it, you can cry to it, and eventually hug your loved ones extra tight to it.