Gawain and the Green Knight Whet Our Appetite for Epic Folk

Songwriters have so much power over perspective, and sometimes all it takes to wield is a confident declaration–whether the narrator is an old woman named after her mother, or, as in the new single by Gawain and the Green Knight, a siren who tried to eat Odysseus.

Building from that bold opening refrain, “Watering Mouth” sees the Brooklyn-based folk duo at their most explosively epic. Singer/guitarist Alexia Antoniou’s lyrics fuse ancient mythology with a more contemporary storytelling trope: it’s a classical tale of the one that got away, if you swap “the one” with “Odysseus” and “got away” with “avoided a watery grave.”

Mike O’Malley’s unique arrangement breathes life into that narrative world and the monstrous desire at its core–like the lyrics, his bouzouki comes from Greek tradition, while the string accompaniments channel baroque pop and a driving, dancing beat roils like an ocean wave.

It’s cut from the same cloth as their 2018 debut EP Ghosties, where the duo used characters from history and literature–French monarchs, Italian ascetics, and Trojan warriors–to act out timeless joys, regrets, and longings. Ghosties ends with a song based on The Illiad, which makes a retelling of The Odyssey a natural place to follow-up.

At the same time, “Watering Mouth” feels bigger and more energetic than Gawain and the Green Knight have been before. So far, it seems Antoniou’s vocal performance can sell any story on its own, but it’s still exciting to hear the duo inhabit ambitious instrumental settings as they iterate on age-old stories with wit, whimsy, and heart.


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