Review: Circus Trees – Sakura EP

They had released two singles, two music videos, a feature length documentary, and played dozens of shows across New England. Yet even as those actions grew their following, fans of the shoegaze trio Circus Trees sometimes loudly asked, when would we finally see record?

Upon listening to an advanced copy of their debut EP entitled Sakura, I can say the wait was well worth it. For, as fans sat for months without new Circus Trees content, the band was hard at work crafting a stellar slab of powerful music now ready to blow the doors off every club, car and basement it resonates through in the coming months.

Expected to drop sometime in February 15th, Sakura features four tracks penned almost exclusively by lead vocalist and guitarist Finola McCarthy. The established voice of the band, McCarthy, 14, is actually the middle child in a sibling trio that split from a larger family band over a year ago to form Circus Trees. Her older sister, Guiliana, 17, drums while Edmee, 13, doubles up on bass and keys.

Young and female in a shoegaze and broader rock scene often dominated by men in their 20s and 30s, Circus Trees have proudly said from their beginning as a band “we make music that doesn’t fit with our age, gender, or living conditions.”

Few could better describe Sakura.

Lyrically, the EP is jarringly beautiful. It begins with the line “Someone’s inhabiting my body, and they don’t like me very much,” and then roars to its emotional climax on the collection’s penultimate track — Despondent. There, McCarthy tells a heartbreaking story of a mother fallen out of love with a son who has committed terrible crimes.

Sakura’s brilliance hardly ends, however with the poetry that are Finola’s words.

Vocally, she displays profound range both in volume and pitch, building on almost every track from a soft intro to belted later verses. In the case of the EP’s second track, the Theft, she also drops into a lower register then normal before shocking listeners with a screamed final verse.

Finally, there are the instruments augmenting Finola’s voice. Edmee and Finola anchor the tracks with rock solid bass, keyboard, and guitar riffs, allowing Giulianna to bring dimension to the band’s sound with a unique drumming style. As Finola often builds from soft and bare vocals up to louder ones, Giulianna plays through most songs by moving from eerie ringing patterns played exclusively on her cymbals, down to sharp, forceful ones punched out on her toms, bass and snare drum as tracks progress. This makes the percussion sounds on Sakura sometimes border on melodic, certainly elevating Circus Trees to a certain level of innovation that often takes bands years to find.

All and all, Sakura is more than just an EP of songs like the singles Circus Trees released in their early days as a band. This first collection of tracks marks growth for the young band and promises listeners stellar shows, a bright future, and, in the short term, roughly 25 minutes very well spent.

– Dakota Antelman

Key track: Despondent