One need not know much about 23-year-old twin sisters Sophia and Jo Babb, aka Companion, to appreciate their folk-flavored debut. Acoustic guitars and gentle backing instrumentation provide a perfect bed for their vocals, which often intertwine as one. At times, they remind me of First Aid Kit and the Watson Twins, plus other assorted sibling acts, with their genetic bond elevating their harmonies to an ethereal level.
Of course, such things would matter little if the songs themselves weren’t strong, but that’s not the case here. The opening track, “How Could I Have Known,” delves into the fleeting nature of life, inspired by their move from their native Oklahoma to northern Colorado, where autumn can give way to winter in the blink of an eye, as well as medical issues Sophia’s then-boyfriend (and now-husband) faced: “The sudden wind that brings you/Will be the wind that takes you/The same fate that brought you/Will be the fate that takes you.” Yet, the fear of losing someone to destiny’s whim is balanced by the joy that comes from loving them.
That wisdom of dealing with life’s sudden shifts was gleaned, in part, from the defining event of their lives. When they were 13, their father—who suffered from Parkinson’s—committed suicide; and, as they tell it, they essentially lost their mom the same day. “If I Were a Ghost” explores how their grief-stricken mother must have felt in empathetic fashion, as reminders of her former life were everywhere she looked.
“Forfeit,” the second track on the album, delves into the unflinching acceptance friends (and lovers) share, while “Arms Length” questions whether it would be easier to love another from afar: “Maybe I’m not warmed up yet/I’m wearing armor from a different past/demanding trust, an impossible thing/Akin to being taught to laugh.” “Snowbank,” on the other hand, finds that distance melting: “Nested in your covers/Might as well have been a snow bank/In my fingers beat a heartache/I’ve never known.” “23rd Street,” follows; it finds the sisters recognizing how they’ve changed through the years.
The title track is a thing of gentle genius, with the yearning for something more giving way, if only in the moment, to acceptance and contentment: “I know where I do and don’t belong/But right here/It’s all right here/So I guess I can stay awhile.” One could argue that “Newborn of Springtime,” about how the coming of spring compensates for winter’s wrath, is a metaphor for something more—and, even if it’s not, that’s how I hear it. “Waiting for You” concludes the album in epiphanic fashion, while their harmonies are a thing of sheer beauty.
The uncluttered production adds to the power and majesty of the songs. Singer-songwriter Courtney Hartman, whose 2021 album Glade is well worth tracking down (or pulling up on the streaming service of your choice), helmed the project.
I saw Companion live in Cincinnati last week, opening for Tori Amos. Just the two of them on stage; they played six songs, two of which aren’t on the album. Sophia is a natural storyteller, humorous and comfortable in front of a crowd. Jo was much quieter, at least that night. I’ll be keeping tabs on them.