Wednesday, August 05, 2009

"Out there somewhere is the finish line": A Half Year Report

Well I'd talked about the packaging in May but I really should talk about the music. Especially since Fanfarlo's "Resevoir" is shaping up to my one of my favourite albums of the year if not (whisper it) THE favourite. So at the mid-point (late as usual) timely to think what are the runners and riders for album of the year. But first how the love affair began.

Mr P has been following Fanfarlo since their early singles - I remember him going on about "Fire Escape" in particular and I largely ignored him. My mistake. At first casual acquaintance, Fanfarlo can sound a little understated, a bit samey, almost anonymous. But in March I was listening to latest single "Harold T Wilkins" (which made it on to the March Gig Guide compilation) and after a few listens it had skewered itself firmly inside my cranium. By the eighth time, I was totally sold. The album followed - and the process repeated itself. Listen - skewer - love - buy the limited run, special edition version with hand-printed silkscreen box. It's a familiar tale.

I've tried to think (not very hard) what it is about this album that I love. And it goes something like this: it manages to combine clever orch-pop (Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird) with swooning indie-pop (most things Swedish or on Fortuna Pop) with literate pop nous (say The Shins) with a great rock dynamic (say Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! on their first album). BUT sounding completely original and not in the shadow of anyone. AND after that initial impression of 'samey' you realise how much DEPTH and VARIETY there is on the album. And THEN there's the instrumentation and the arrangements - umpteen listens down the track I'm still trying to work out what is making such beautiful sounds - Clarinet? Melodica? Harp? Bassoon? Glockenspiel? And did I mention Simon Balthazar's singing?! Or the lyrics?! Enough of the drooling.

So sorry Mr P for not listening to you sooner. And after Fanfarlo's March Manchester gig we missed, they are back at The Deaf Institue next month (a match made in heaven!). Not all US/UK dates seem to be listed on the site yet so here they are in full:

September 14 Seattle - Chop Suey
September 15 Hollywood - Troubadour
September 16 Los Angeles - The Echo
September 17 San Francisco - Popscene
September 20 Philadelphia - Kungfu Necktie
September 21 New York - Bowery Ballroom
September 22 Brooklyn - The Bell House

September 28 Manchester - Deaf Institute
September 29 York - Fibbers
October 1 Glasgow - ABC2
October 2 Middlesbrough - Westgarth
October 3 Nottingham - Bodega
October 4 Bristol - Start the Bus
October 5 Oxford - Jericho Tavern
October 6 London - Bush Hall
October 7 Brighton - Hanbury Ballroom
October 8 Cardiff - Iforbach
October 9 Leeds - Brudenell Social Club

So if Fanfarlo's Resevoir is in pole position for the Half Year Report for album of the year, who else is up with them? Well in no particular order: Bill Callahan's Sometimes I Wish We An Eagle, Camera Obscura's My Maudlin Career, The Phantom Band's Checkmate Savage, Sonic Youth's The Eternal, My Sad Captain's Here and Elsewhere, A C Newman's Get Guilty, Titus Andronicus, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillion, Slow Club's Yeah So. And then there's Malcolm Middleton's Waxing Gibbous, Bishop Allen's Grrr.., The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and.... oh it's going to be a long six (four) months to 31 December.....

And if Half/End of Year are your lists here are some others: Piccadilly Records; Sweeping The Nation; NPR's All Songs Considered podcast; Sound Opinions; and Spin.

Resevoir [BUY]

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