As before, how I am kicking myself for missing this record the first time around. Though I’ve really come to appreciate what makes Fanfarlo unique, I think the easiest way to explain this band to someone who’s never heard them is in the following fashion:
OK, so you know Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea?
Imagine now that Jeff Mangum hadn’t gone a little tiny bit crazy and put the band on indefinite hiatus, and had decided the polish NMH’s sound ever so slightly.
Assuredly, such a comparison does both bands a bit of injustice. To say that Fanfarlo’s 2009 effort Reservoir punches through to the emotional plane that Mangum’s concept album, about the life of the celebrated author of The Diary of Anne Frank, did is most likely untrue. And as I said before, Fanfarlo’s record is far more polished than Aeroplane, but the instruments employed and musical ideas executed certainly invite the comparison. The vocals also hint at David Byrne, which is one of the greatest compliments I can give, and some of the composition later in the album is reminiscent of Beirut’s Gulag Orkestar.
My favorite thing about Reservoir, however, comparisons aside, is the pacing. I am always a little picky about this, but this London-based group (though the frontman is from Sweden, which maybe explains a bit…) has really hit the mark! Tracks such as ‘Luna’, ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’, and ‘Drowning Men’ really keep the album moving. Normally, I need this, and these are my favorite tracks, because during the slow songs my interests wanes, but not with this group. The slow songs, such as ‘I’m a Pilot’ and ‘If It Is Growing’ really provide invaluable structure to the rest of the album, and are good to listen to in their own right.
The best songs transition between these two ends, however. My favorite track, ‘Comets‘, as well as ‘Fire Escape’ and ‘Harold T. Wilkins…’ start you off slow, with an almost march, quickening eventually to inescapable refrain that you can’t help but sing. It’s also worth restating that the brass really helps these tracks, and its conservative use goes a long way, and when used with the theremin it helpts towards getting at a hint of that NMH-esque eeriness without it becoming overbearing.
Maybe why I’m grasping like a crazy person at similar sounding artists is because there are just so many layers to this rich music that it’s hard to describe. In light of my failure to explain it then, I strongly encourage you to check out this record. Expect big things from these guys, because if they can pull this off with their first swing, who knows what a year or two more of experience will help them produce in the future.
I also threw in a “bonus” track of theirs because even though it’s not on the album, it’s easily my favorite after ‘Comets’.