Review – “Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.”
Faunts (Friendly Fire Recordings) Originally published by ʻSUP Magazine, January, 2009.
The other day I was the one choosing music at the office and after I hit “Next” I guess one too many times a coworker asked me if when I reviewed albums I just told people to skip all the slow songs. I yelped at him for thirty seconds or so, but then I was distracted and had to get up because the song that had come on was boring.
I do like dark, spacey, substance-inviting music. Really, I do. But in listening to “Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.” by Canadian dream pop band, Faunts, I realized that had all their synth lines been contained within parts of “Isn’t Anything” I’d never have listened to the whole album through — just fast forwarded to these instantly charming bits without giving the shyer MBV stuff a chance.
Because “Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.” is great, and it’s accessible, and really what’s great is that they prove these two traits are not as star-crossed as people sometimes make them out to be.
In the past Faunts have never failed in constructing entire universes of music, but they have rarely concentrated on creating smaller worlds within. This time they entertain the strangely novel idea of stand-alone songs. The result is an album that’s atmospheric but never with so much room to wander that you get lost and forget you’re listening to something a human being made. These songs lack the gaunt, pale emotional sterility that electro is often characterized by, and thank god for music with something to grab onto.
Such substance is found in “Out on a Limb,” which communicates feeling other than disaffection with its distinguished handclaps and drummer Paul Arnush’s pulse-like pounding. And the title track is more steadfastly electropop but also manages livelihood by way of its dynamically related melody and instrumentation. New Order comparisons aren’t inaccurate but of course they’re about as useful as Beatles ones. What I will say is that it is almost impossible for me to listen to this kind of music and not see “Blade Runner” whenever I close my eyes. But the unique thing about Faunts is that their soundscapes are cityscapes, certainly, but cityscapes that are for once specked with people and faces, and colored by something other than Lomographied traffic lights.
The strong presence of rock on this album further adds dimension to what might otherwise only have LCD-sized depth. “Lights are Always On” features a bass line by Scott Gallant that sits high enough in the mix to match and fasten much of the ethereal noise. The song slowly fades and what materializes from the residual feedback of the entangled rock is “Das Malefitz,” a testimony to the fact that drum machines DO have soul.
Through the depths of fuzz you can hear your first game system playing the 8 bit track it did when you unlocked the water temple in your favorite RPG; “I Think I’ll Start a Fire” is especially reminiscent of this nostalgia that lies half-asleep in a twin bed, illuminated bythe glow of a convex television. This is the hit that Phoenix could have produced had they grown up a little more seriously.
“Alarmed Lights” consists of staccato and comparatively sparse instrumentation with darker undertones throughout. Steven Batke’s vocals are especially noticeable with this backdrop. His voice is the kind of beautiful that doesn’t need to be dolled up in effects to disarm you, even if it often is. And as an aside, I think we’re all thankful that Lil Wayne makes the music that he does, but had he grown up really into John Hughes films this track is probably something like what he’d produce.
The slowest, most melancholic track on the album is “So Far Away,” but it’s so dreamy that it’s impossible to cut short. Eventually it moves off into the same silence that begins the next and last track on the album, “Explain”, and it seems that the Batkes have pieced together the JAMC’s exact guitar tone, an achievement which aptly summarizes the preceding forty-five minutes.
Just buy this album. You’re going to be hearing it all the time in four months anyway, so love your favorite track now before all you can think about when you hear it is the car commercial it will inevitably be used for and you have to start skipping to different songs.