Review : Freelance Whales - Weathervanes
PitchforkFrom Tommy Lee's rotating, airborne cage to John Bonham's gong, rock drummers have made crowd-pleasing gimmicks a time-honored tradition. Freelance Whales' Jacob Hyman' addition to this legacy is... incorporating a watering can into his kit. I wouldn't bring this up if everyone else didn't-- it's the most oft-repeated factoid regarding Freelance Whales in all of their pre-release hype. But I'll be damned if I could pinpoint that watering can on record. It's basically a cutesy affectation without actual purpose, which isn't a bad metaphor for the band itself.
Freelance Whales are gaining attention for good reason. Besides being on Frenchkiss, a label with a great recent track record of locating bands with quality plus commercial appeal (Passion Pit, the Antlers, Dodos, Local Natives), FW sound on the surface a lot like 00s Indie Hall of Famers Arcade Fire, Ben Gibbard, and Sufjan Stevens. Freelance Whales have plenty of band-camp orchestrations, complete-sentence lyrics, and banjo; but their predecessors' work was so resonant because it felt birthed out of necessity and populated with real people and relatable emotion. Here, everything is based in stunted adolescence and rote ideas-- you almost wonder if they think storks bring babies to this world.
The cloying overload starts with "Hannah", wherein frontman Judah Dadone empties a vault of Manic Pixie Dream Girl clichés-- martinis, balconies, chance encounters on spiral stairs. He also unveils an early contender for the most eye-gouging lyrical run of 2010: "Every now and again she offers me a lemon Now & Later/ Please don't play the matchmaker/ Please don't be a player hater/ If you dig her recent work/ You should go congratulate her." They should've just been up front and titled this song "Zooey"....full text
UrbMaybe it’s all the banjo that gives the amiable sounds of this New York band’s debut an almost naïve charm. There are bright chords and fresh-faced sounds aplenty, but make no mistake, Freelance Whales’ indie-pop sounds are distinct and fully realized as their debut album shows depth, range and inventiveness. Belying their urban origins, the band’s music evokes the pastoral spaciousness of rural isolation. However, this is no backcountry outpost lost in time, but a high-tech organic operation producing rich sounds by cross-pollinating synthpop’s energetic melodics with folk-driven instrumentation. The results have a charismatic earnestness that avoids being cloying, and Weathervanes plays out with a wondrous sense of open-eyed adventure and finely crafted compositions.
Songs about ghosts and dreams come together with tracks about innocent love (sometimes aimed at the aforementioned ghosts) and the band does a good job at infusing the music with the ethereal atmosphere expressed in their lyrics. Building from an electronic hum and a low clanking rattle that gives way to the banjo lead, “Generator ^ First Floor” opens the disc and introduces the positive but slightly haunted moods that follow. Toward the end of the disc “Generator ^ Second Floor” matches this mood with chorused vocals and a glockenspiel in the front. The true heart of the album comes out in “Hannah” where bouncing synths and sing-song verses break away for the glorious refrain that plays with the pacing and the mood of the song, leaving listeners caught in soft swirl of sound and pace. “Starring” and “Kilojoules” pick up the tempo and deliver a charge to the disc before “Broken Horse” strips everything they’ve done to its most bare and “Ghosting” tenderly begins a reassembly mission. By the time things conclude with mannerly closer “The Great Estates” it’s been made perfectly clear that this is a band ready and able to create visions with enveloping scope and delightful articulation....full text
PrettymuchamazingFalling in love with a young band is a lot like falling in love with a young woman – the same exhilaration, the same trepidation, the same split-second panics. Is this a fleeting fling or a lasting relationship? Will I look back a few years from now and regret this commitment? Is it too early to friend her on facebook? There’s an excitement unique to young bands, a promise and enthusiasm that’s difficult to capture.
Freelance Whales embody that promise, with a debut album that has garnered more praise and buzz in the last few weeks than it did during its first few months of existence. The hype train is pulling out of the station, whether you’re on it or not. Remember Passion Pit? Those smug little popsters who captured our hearts with synths and falsettos last year are passing the torch to folkier conductors.
And despite my hesitations and my fear of commitment, I’m on board.
Striking a balance between immediacy and permanency is one of the most difficult challenges a band – especially a band in its infancy – faces. Stray too far toward the first and you’re a bubblegum pop act with no depth. Aspire too strongly for the latter and your record sounds like every chump in a coffee shop trying to write the next Great American Novel, which is to say stilted, forced, pretentious....full text
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