Saturday 1 March 2014

Fanfarlo - Let's Go Extinct

Album review by

Anglo-Swedish group Fanfarlo have always enjoyed critical acclaim, and even though their debut album 'Reservoir' was a collection of music that took a while to sink in and wasn't necessarily "pop" enough to make them global megastars, it did build them a strong and dedicated fanbase. Follow-up 'Rooms Filled With Light' retained the chamber-pop feel of the first album, but it upped the indie-type sound that bit more, perhaps making it more accessible to the average punter. It was by no means a sell-out or an attempt to reel in more sales, it was the simple evolution of the band. It lost them few fans, but there was the odd murmur of discontent amongst some who thought it was perhaps not as individual as the first record. For Fanfarlo, for this particular pair of ears, and probably for the public at large, new album 'Let's Go Extinct' is a further step on this evolutionary path. Whether those who preferred the slightly quirky, less full chamber sounds of the early recordings will embrace it is for them to decide, but they'd be fools not to.

Out of the three so far, this one wins by a nose. It's interesting to note that chief songwriter Simon Balthazar says the album is loosely based around the theme of evolution, given that's what's happening to the band. There are still strings and brass, there are still intricate and interesting arrangements, and the standard of writing is higher than most bands ever achieve. It could be said though, that 'Let's Go Extinct' is something of a (possibly subconscious) shot at taking things to a whole new level. It only takes first track 'Life In The Sky' for this to become apparent. With a grand, sweeping and almost euphoric chorus, this is as close to a potential big hit record as the group have come. It's more experimental indie than the folky, minimalistic orchestral textures you may expect. The sound is different; fuller, more accessible, and the tune hooks deep into your brain. It's a spectacular start, and they lose nothing of their attention to detail or songcraft in creating such an instant hit. Like we said, they're not selling-out, simply evolving, they just happen to be doing so in some style. It's no one-off either. Fanfarlo are fully embracing dreampop here, but not doing so by hiding behind a wall of effects. Instead they opt for richer arrangements and the use of synths along with their usual wide array of instrumentation. 'Cell Song' shows their past and their potential future colliding, and it sounds wonderful.

Fans will be familiar with the more restrained tones of 'Myth Of Myself', a track that harks back to their previous sound, but bolsters it just a bit to ensure it fits snugly in place here, adding a fantastical mid-section, and 'The Distance' is another song from recent EP 'The Sea' and is indie-rock with some nice, unexpected touches and a hint of Talking Heads. There's a slight '80s feel to 'We're The Future', a song that begins as though it would be your standard good album track, but soon becomes something better, with retro, space-age electronics, and none of us thought we'd be saying that about this band a few years ago. It's the very same era the look to for 'Landlocked', surely their most "pop" moment to date and it borders on pushing things to far - those who weren't as keen on the second album will most likely want to give this a miss, but it's still a good song, although it's almost unrecognisable. 'Painting With Life' will be more appealing to those who preferred the orchestral arrangements, yet they still flood it with melody and it's less jittery that some past material, even throwing in a surprise instrumental break that shows they have ideas in abundance.

Meeting in the middle of each incarnation of the band so far is 'The Grey And Gold', another wonderful baroque-pop song that recalls early Belle & Sebastian' but with added radio-play appeal. Then we reach the final couplet of 'The Beginning And The End' which is a piano-led indiepop song that deals with the perils of mankind's abuse of natural resources and the higher powers that control us, the global elite. Perhaps that leaves us with no option. Let's Go Extinct', that way the human race will stop exploiting the planet. It might sound like a miserable note to end on, and the beginning is a little maudlin, but this tune contains perhaps the most rewarding chorus of all, managing to sound a bit like British Sea Power while it's at it. From 'Life In The Sky' and 'Cell Song', right through the evolutionary path to 'The Beginning And The End' and finally 'Let's Go Extinct', this has been the journey of evolution promised as a theme for the album, but more than that, Fanfarlo's third album is the story of the evolution of a band, and they're definitely going forward and upward to a higher level. In fact, you're almost left wishing you had the next instalment of their journey ready to listen to now. There are some startlingly good songs on this record, and it would be a huge shame if they were judged against what the band sounded like in 2009, because they've moved on, and venturing with them is proving to be a great experience.

Fanfarlo's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album

Catch them live:

1 March 2014 Vienna, Flex, Austria
3 March 2014 Bologna, Locomotiv, Italy
4 March 2014 Milan, Tunnel, Italy
6 March 2014 Zurich, Rote Fabrik, Switzerland
7 March 2014 Frankfurt, Das Bett, Germany
8 March 2014 Belgium, AB Club, Belgium
24 March 2014 San Diago, CA, House of Blues, United States
25 March 2014 Los Angeles, CA, Troubador, United States
26 March 2014 San Francisco, CA, Great American Music Hall, United States
28 March 2014 Portland, OR, Dante’s, United States
29 March 2014 Vancouver, BC, Venue, United States
30 March 2014 Seattle, WA, Tractor Tavern, United States
1 April 2014 Salt Lake City, Urban Lounge, United States
2 April 2014 Denver, CO, Larimer Lounge, United States
5 April 2014 St. Louis, MO, Duck Room at Blueberry, United States
7 April 2014 Minneapolis, MN, Triple Rock Social Club, United States
8 April 2014 Madison, WI, High Noon Saloon, United States
10 April 2014 Chicago, IL, Lincoln Hall, United States
11 April 2014 Columbus, OH, Skully’s Music Diner, United States
12 April 2014 Millvale, PA, Mr. Small’s Theatre, United States
14 April 2014 Detroit, MI , Shelter, United States
16 April 2014 Toronto, ON, Lee’s Palace, United States
17 April 2014 Montreal, QB, La Sala Rossa, United States
19 April 2014 Cambridge, MA, The Sinclair, United States
22 April 2014 New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom, United States
23 April 2014 Brooklyn, NY, Rough Trade, United States
25 April 2014 Philadelphia, PA, Underground Arts, United States
26 April 2014 Washington, DC U, Street Music Hall, United States

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