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Tag: Anomie

Fairmont picks up a girl and an acoustic guitar, making good use of both.

The most striking thing about Fairmont‘s The Meadow at Dusk EP is the relative calm it espouses. While Fairmont has never been the speediest of the indie-rock set tempo-wise, they’re anything but calm when it comes to their lyrical content. “Kicking and screaming, doused with bits of resigned bitterness” is a more apt description of the words that accompany Fairmont’s guitar-heavy indie-rock/pop.

With that calm comes a shift in instrumentation (or, perhaps, the shift in instrumentation causes the calm). Previous albums featured tracks that built towards overflowing endings crammed full of vocal tracks, electric guitar swells and pounding rhythm sections. There’s still some of that happening on Meadow.  The crashing guitars and staccato rhythms of “From High Above the City”  sound musically like a transplant from their last effort Transcendence.

The bridge, however, puts Fairmont’s direction in much greater focus, musically and lyrically. A bass riff on a keyboard takes over with a complicated riff, and an electronic beat keeps time for it. It flows seamlessly back into crashing electric guitars, but the point is made musically. The dual vocals feature a girl, a first for Fairmont. The lyrics portray a sort of normalcy that is uncharacteristic of Fairmont’s discography but in line with Meadow‘s themes: “This could be heaven, this could be hell; this is life, this is how it’s going.”

With that new vocalist, addition of keyboard, and calmer outlook on life, the whole feel of Fairmont is slightly different. Those additions lead naturally to more acoustic guitar presence in their music, something that hasn’t been a major, effective part of Fairmont’s sound since 2003’s Anomie. “The King and Queen” is a folk-rock song supported by a sweet acoustic guitar riff, “The Embalmer” is a straight-up folk lullaby (albeit one with a chorus that says “Song for the suffering, song for the dead;” can’t stray too far from their roots), and “My One and Only One” is (get this) a love song. Yes, it does have “Sometimes you wear me out” as its main line, but its contrasted by “When times were tough, you were there” and the almost-weird-to-hear-coming-out-of-Neil-Sabatino’s-mouth “You are my one and only one.”

The tracks that make best use of the new female vocalist and feature the acoustic aesthetic are the more successful tracks on this album. “I am the Mountain” is the best meld of old and new, but it doesn’t hold a candle to “The King and Queen” and “The Embalmer.”

If you’re a fan of girl/guy interplay, you should add Fairmont to your library. You haven’t had a reason to before this, but Meadow at Dusk EP establishes new sounds and new angles to Fairmont’s sound that should intrigue you. It features some of their most accomplished and entertaining songwriting, and that’s saying something: I own half a dozen Fairmont releases. The tracks have an immediate glow and yet still grow in enjoyment as you hear them more; that’s something most bands wish they could accomplish. Highly recommended for fans of the Hold Steady, M. Ward, and/or Peter, Bjorn and John.

Fairmont — Anomie

Best feature: Diversity, beauty, and originality all rolled into one.
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Reinforcement Records

Fairmont is one ambitious indie rock band. They sport electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums, and no bassist. Just to add to the challenge, their genre of choice is a highly stylized brand of indie rock, ala Elliot Smith and Joseph Arthur. With the odds stacked against them, it seems that Fairmont has given themselves an ultimatum: become indie rock gods along with Smith and Arthur, or fade off into oblivion.

I can, in good confidence, vouch for the former.

Anomie is basically divided into two sections: the first half a dose of high-strung rock, the second a brilliant session of low-key mellow songs. The first half of the album is solid, with their interesting, quirky rock taking the spotlight. The second half is where they really shine, as their mellow picking, tempo jumping, and strong command of melody and countermelody come to the focus.

Their rock is complex in various ways, from odd chord progressions to multiple vocal tracks to weaving guitar lines. It sounds cluttered, but they do a good job of pushing the most important elements to the front without diminishing the power of the backing elements. This makes it focused and extremely aurally pleasing.

The vocals here are another distinguishing feature. Equal parts pinched yelp, nasal whine, over-the-top vibrato, and slurry notes, it is the definition of unique. It takes a couple listens to get used to, but in the end, the vocals are irresistible. They are most unique when he’s convicted about what he’s singing, such as in “Sometimes I’m Bitter” or the emotionally charged “Burn the Churches”.

When he accompanies more mellow fare, his voice is lower and more pop-friendly, which makes for some truly beautiful songs (“Knock Me Out”, “2:37 a.m.”). In fact, “2:37 a.m.” is one of the most heart-wrenching songs I’ve heard in a long time, as the hopeless lyrics, the forlorn vocal delivery, and delicate arrangement work together in an eerie way.

There are many moments like that on this album, moments where you just stare in awe at nothing cause the sound is just so perfect. “The Last Time” has a stellar ending, “Artemis” has a riveting chorus, “Saved Me” has an excellent intro, the entire 48 seconds of “Hello Kitty” are fantastic, and the list of moments goes on and on.

This is an album that should be everywhere. It should be in every indie-rock fanatic’s player, and burned to every computer. This is an album that will have your head spinning. The members of Fairmont are on their way to becoming indie rock gods in the eyes of the public. I know they’re already immortalized in my mind.