Last updated on October 14, 2020
Standards‘ Fruit Island is what would happen if a math-rock band, an indie-pop band, and a classical guitarist merged into a single entity. The guitar-drums duo features often clean (or lightly distorted), highly patterned, deeply melodic electric guitar work over cymbal-heavy, frantic drumming.
The melodies are absolutely beautiful, and none more so than in the solo guitar opener and title track, which is a vaguely tropical, dreamy, lovely, walking pace guitar solo that has more in common with classical guitar work than math-rock.
“Nap” brings in the drummer and kicks up the pace. The duo turns out the most mathy of the tracks, complete with structured runs, syncopated asides, gonzo drumming, and other hallmarks of math-rock. Yet even in this most complex of songs, the work leads up to a hair-raisingly beautiful section where the guitarist transcends the monikers and just creates an elegant, wonderful piece of music with percussion support. The coda is a variant on that section, reminiscent of some of Anamanaguchi’s big finales. I dare anyone with an interest in math-rock to hear “Nap” and not just need to sit down afterwards.
It’s not all rhythm-heavy fretboard workouts. Standards has a real interest in pop melodies, and given the bright, friendly tone of the guitar (most of the time), these tunes have genuinely fun pop moments. “Starfish” turns a wibble-wobble opening line into a zooming, stratospheric soar. “Special Berry” has a memorable, herky-jerky riff. “May” slows the tempo down but is no less complicated or melodic a piece of guitar work for the change in pace. “Rainbow” is like a warm sweater, especially after the first few tracks–it builds on the established pattern and gives the guitarist more room to go nuts. If you weren’t in to the first couple tracks, you probably won’t be in to “Rainbow,” but if you’re already on the train, this is just more goodness.
“Mango” is another solo guitar instrumental that shows off the guitar skill, and it really drives home the love of guitar that Standards has. They love drums, too–“What You Aren’t” is a completely overactive drum kit experience in the best of ways. But overall, Fruit Island is a love letter to guitar via an indie-pop/math-rock mashup. It’s a wonderfully listenable release that I can put on over and over again. I recommend headphones, though–there’s a whole lot of treble and a whole lot of bass kick, and not much mid. So it may sound wonky on mid-heavy speakers. Just a heads up. But otherwise, this is an incredible album. Highly recommended.