Sound — 8
This debut album of the London-based folk-pop five-piece "Fanfarlo" is a most welcomed cold-weather release whose quirkiness and dramatic arrangements will surely be an album to lull you through the coldest months. Swedish frontman Simon Balthazar leads this band down the well worn trail of a Arcade Fire/Neutral Milk Hotel inspired sound and atmosphere (admittedly, not the first), but in this instance, it is done with more zest and adventure than other such acts (Fleet Foxes, The National). Some of that zest and adventure comes from the well textured multi-instrumentation Balthazar employs, with wurlitzers, accordian and clarinets folding elegantly between the drums, acoustic guitars and bass lines. Each song feels comfortably crafted. However, the sound is not all great. All too often, some tracks on this album can find themselves wandering without direction, which may be a potential turn-off for some listeners. Yet, "Fanfarlo's ability to create simplistic easy to grasp melodies as in Harold T. Wilkins", "The Walls Are Coming Down" and "Fire Escape" are where I find the brilliance of their sound shining through the most. Consequently, this level of brilliance is not a spontaneous fluke, the release of "Reservoir" did not pop out of nowhere. They have been well supported along their journey to this first release, being helped along by the likes of David Bowie, Sigur Ros, Snow Patrol and their SXSW festival success, all whose subtle influences can be recognised with a fine-tuned ear.
Lyrics — 7
Like many bands in the same genre, Fanfarlo's lyrics are enigmatic, and display a clear lack of babblingly dwelling on cheeesy romance or pining over lost cookie-cutter love. In songs like "I'm A Pilot," you can sense a clear relationship between a child and older pilot, the former trying to impart his love for flying, professing, "But kid I'm a pilot/ It's all I believe in," yet, from the lyrics, not much more can be supposed beyond this. Then, through the song "Fire Escape," you encounter two lovers fleeing a burning building, yet they seemingly ponder the futility of it all, with the man saying to the woman, "But you're still midway/ It's not too late to just turn back." But as to why, it's not clear. Yet at the same time my favourite line in the album comes from last line of this mysterious song, "The life that you had in mind/ Was just a moth and a light." From this I envision a man brilliantly accusing the woman of having completely no goals or direction in life. Her intentions and goals amount to nothing but uselessly wasting time and space, like a moth flying around a light.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, what I appreciate about the sound of this album is its playful folksy-ness of the pop that just seems to linger in your mind long after listening. Tracks like "Harold T. Wilkins" will have you instantly bobbing your head up and down with a twangy guitar line you'll be unable to forget. They are just quirky enough for the hipster friends to get into and maybe even pop-edged enough for your mainstream friends to enjoy. Admittedly there are some weaker songs, "Luna", "Comets" and "If It Is Growing," but all of these are compensated by other much more tremendously powerful and emotional tracks. With fan-fare already building for this new-comer, I would expect much more from them in the future.