Even though Denmark’s Jacob Faurholt is prolific via his solo project and his more eclectic experimental project Crystal Shipsss, not enough noise has been made about his skill as a songwriter. Released through Faurholt’s label Raw Onion Records, Shake Off The Fear is folk rock for the truly imaginative human. Fear is this album’s thematic compass, as the nine songs reveal a man who has lived, loves, and has grieved the loss of life.
The record features a variety of sounds and references coming together effectively. Faurholt’s vocal phrasing and tone mirrors superstar Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones on “Stargazing”–it’s a little freaky. Nadia Sharpe Faurholt blends sweetly on the duet “Hide From The Dark.” In its authentic love, an essence of Jason Molina’s Songs:Ohia oozes through. Shifting gears, “Super Sorry” pulls in the talents of Rasmus Fink on drums and Anders Ahle on bass into this well paced tune. Fleshed out completely with Victor Kim’s electric guitar, this is a 1960’s rock and roll flashback masterfully executed.
“The Burning Ship” features Jacob Faurholt’s banjo-driven emotion, stopping time for a moment in remembrance of a 1990 Scandanavian ferry disaster that claimed the life of his childhood friend. Authentic, hollow, with painfully stark and perfectly executed production choices by Victor Kim, this track shows how important restraint can be. Each purposeful note is steeped in anxiety, as the ghosts of troubadours like Tom Waits sway. Those solid production choices combined with Andy Magoffin’s strong mixing and mastering make this album is fantastic technical work.
Halfway through Shake Off The Fear, standout cut “The Dark Isn’t Right” reverberates like a cinematic crash of expansive concepts set to a musical waltz. Ahle on piano and slide guitar joins Faurholt’s acoustic guitar with plaintive vocals reminiscent of the great Neil Young, creating a vibe Conor Oberst would appreciate. Hauntingly breathtaking lyrics pack a moody compositional punch. Understated, expressive genius reminds us all we are all afraid of the dark sometimes. The album’s cover art with William Kudahl’s Mars-scape layout containing a solitary guitarist pushes at Faurholt’s status as a father, partner, and leader.
Turning toward the end of a journey of self-discovery, “Dark Moons” hits quickly. In a little more than two minutes, the mood has changed. An ethereal harmony swings into the final tracks and “Satellite” is a love song whose orbit resonates. Skilled at his craft, Faurholt’s quirky imagery is sometimes reminiscent of Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. So what is binding the man together, serving as connective tissue allowing him to “Shake Off The Fear”? The joy of records like this is that there are an infinite number of answers, all meaningful and true.
“Rainbow in the Sky” brings a forty-year-old songwriter’s evolution full circle. Acoustic guitar drives this closer, breathing sweetly the joys of love and grief to illuminate the beauty, like a rainbow after a summer rainstorm clears. Jacob Faurholt’s Shake Off The Fear may be channeling his heroes with love and blotting out fear with music. His voice as a lyrical craftsman has certainly earned him a spot in top releases of 2019. —Lisa Whealy