Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

See, The Name is Ironic Because… Never Mind

November 20, 2009

Fool’s Gold is an LA-based octet that recently released their self-titled debut, Fool’s Gold. It’s honestly difficult to adequately capture their sound – some make comparisons to Vampire Weekend, but that’s like saying a Lotus is similar to a Toyota because they have the same engine. What you’ve got here is a homegrown fusion of Afrobeat, reggae, jam, and a smattering of rock and pop. The overall sound is a tropical/island one, for the most part. Then lead singer Luke Top comes in with Hebrew vocals, and where does that leave you? LA, apparently. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

“Surprise Hotel” is the lead track, and possibly the best known of their offerings. It’s got their signature tropical sound, and opens heavy on strings and guitar before adding in all-Hebrew vocals around one and a half minutes in. It’s really chill music, and reminds me a bit of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole if the big guy had more energy. Fool’s Gold does a great job of harmonizing and balancing vocals against their guitar and other instrumentation.

Later, “The World Is All There Is” demonstrates a much more emphatic African drum influence. The song has a strong international flavor – not that others don’t, but this one uses it to greater effect. The Hebrew vocals layer seamlessly over everything.

Frankly, I can barely even distinguish between everything that’s going on here. There’s the lead vocals, backup vocals, drums, auxiliary percussion like shakers and tambourine, guitar, saxophone, and it’s all blending and weaving in and out of each other. As good as the preceding songs are, this one is my favorite, if only for the irresistible energy it displays. There’s even a smooth a capella outro at the end, too. Can’t lose!

Nearer the end, instrumental track “Night Dancing” comes in with more of a latin influence than other songs. It’s fitting considering the multiethnic (and specifically hispanic) backgrounds that many of the band’s members have. It’s also faster than any of the other songs, with a driving bass beat and some sweet brass popping in periodically, making a nice addition to the saxophone that frequents so many of their songs.

This really is one of those albums that means more when experienced as a whole instead of individual songs. From “Surprise Hotel” and “Night Dancing” to other tracks like “Nadine” and “Poseidon,” Fool’s Gold has a sound that’s fresh, new, and incorporates about a dozen musical traditions into a wild medley that is all their own. Don’t be shy, go ahead and pick up Fool’s Gold. Your ears will thank you.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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