The Fresh & Onlys, House of Spirits (Mexican Summer, 06/10/2014)
The Fresh & Onlys are a four-piece out of San Francisco. Their latest, House of Spirits, is their sixth full length (the band has also released a couple of EPs). On prior releases, the band honed a sound including elements of psychedelia, garage rock, 70s SoCal country-tinged pop, and a bit of Paisley Underground and Brit-influenced 80s indie rock. House feels like an attempt to broaden this sonic palette further, introducing more drone and ambient textures and hues to broaden the scope.
For this review, I thought I’d try something different and attempt to share my (slightly cleaned up) initial reactions to the each track on the album. Here goes:
“Home is Where” – opens with church organ; crooning vocals over piano, then morphs into a steady rocker – kind of reminds me of Doves. Retains updated 60s via 80s sound. The dreamy, reverbed vocals once the song harken back to the days of “college radio” and import singles from some great UK band.
“Who Let the Devil” – intro bass/drum line sounds like Lords of the New Church a bit (probably just me…). Dreamy guitar arpeggio laces around muffled, Tim Cohen’s underwater vocals – ‘who let the devil walk into my house/ when i was born dying’. Something about the melody reminds me of a Neil Young song, but I can”t figure out which one – it’s driving me crazy. Is that a zither? autoharp? in the chorus?
“Bells of Paonia” – strobed guitar drone, ambient textures over pulsating bass line and lyrics about the effects of a pill. Druggy, Spiritualized hushed gospel feel overlaid with Warm Jets-era Eno. Invites repeated listening to peel the onion.
“Animal of One” -“the point of forgiving/is so you forget/that being forgiven/is all in your mind”. Seventies, SoCal country-tinged pop vibe. Song (quietly) explodes into an absolutely lovely chorus around the 2:30 mark.
“I’m Awake” – to be honest, this song didn’t really grab me. Was a bit disappointed by the chorus after an encouraging opening melody.
“Hummingbird” – an out and out rocker. Chugging bassline and straight ahead drums bring echoes of 80s brit/indie – maybe a less dramatic Icicle Works? Interplay between the lead guitar and vocals is great.
“April Fools” – sweet, airy vocal melodies over chimey guitars – not a million miles away from San Francisco psychedelic pop legacy. Love the guitar line in the chorus. Could use a bridge/transition somewhere, though.
“Ballerina” – country infused. A road trip through somewhere flat, where the reference points in the horizon never seem to get closer. Vocals (here, I believe, by guitarist Wymond Miles) evoke a world weary Roger Miller.
“Candy” – opens with a playful, swinging beat. A slow grower. Would be nice of the guitars were pushed more to the fore to bring the chorus out of it’s shell a bit.
“Madness” – (closer). intro reminds me of the beginning to “Disappear” by INXS (this is not a bad thing). Similar in feel with “Bells” – a more languid, ambient arrangement crashes against a rocky shore of heavily distorted guitars.
Highlights include: “Bells of Paonia”, “Who Let the Devil”, “Animal of One”.