You could probably throw a rock down any given street and you would probably hit an acoustic indie duo. Well, that’s what it feels like, at the very least. So you could probably imagine my apprehension when someone suggested I should listen to one. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good duo of easy-listening folk songs, but there’s no denying it’s a bit of an over-exposed sub-genre in the indie scene. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Where Do We Go From Here?, the new album from The Saint Johns, on Soul Step Records.
Formed in the mid-2000s, The Saint Johns made a splash with their 2016 debut album Dead Of Night. The album was an ambitious take on the folk-duo trope with lush production and intricate compositions.
The success of Dead Of Night found The Saint Johns with spots on SXSW, Bonnaroo, and David Letterman as well as granting them the opportunity to pursue solo careers. But after taking an extended break (and a pandemic), Louis Johnson and Jordan Meredith have regrouped for their proper follow-up, Where Do We Go From Here?. Upon the first listen to the lead single, “Outside Looking In”, it’s apparent the time off has been kind of a reboot or factory reset. Johnson and Meredith aren’t out to invent a new genre or even themselves as artists. It’s more about playing to their strengths and being the best version of their best elements.
In fact, I personally believe the duo’s secret weapon has always been their uncanny chemistry.
The acoustic guitars are warm and delicate, and the soundscapes are rich and poised, but it’s the layered vocals of Johnson and Meredith that really elevates Where Do We Go From Here?. Produced by Jars Of Clay’s Matthew Odmark, the production never gets in the way of the album’s most important attribute; the aforementioned chemistry between Johnson and Meredith. When the songs are nostalgic, you long for a simpler time. When they’re romantic, you feel it. This is something lost on many releases from duos in this skill set.
The Saint Johns is the perfect example of what’s the most important element in any kind of artistic duo. It’s not always about finishing each other’s sentences or going high when the other goes low. It’s about combining the best and worst to create a singular mind and voice. Where Do We Go From Here? goes beyond sub-genres, gimmicks, and or tropes to deliver a wonderful celebration of chemistry and artistry. The kind of album you don’t just listen to, but one you take in. If more duos approached their records like The Saint Johns, I think it’s safe to say, I’d have absolutely zero apprehensions in the future.
Where Do We Go From Here? is available on vinyl exclusively from Soul Step Records.