There are few things I love more than a song celebrating life. There are plenty of break-up songs and misery tunes in the world, but not enough songs championing good things. Feldiken (the man) is on a mission to change that.
Feldiken (the musical project) has a new EP called Common Splendor, and it is six songs of relentless positivity. His sound primarily stays in the upbeat, bright-eyed pop that he showcased on his debut album Small Songs About Us. The notable exception is “Together in this Groove,” which is a surprisingly coherent and entertaining dance track. While the songwriting style hasn’t changed too much, the lyrics are much more memorable this time around.
Title track “Common Splendor” tells short stories of people taking care of other people, and it’s sincere enough to defeat any accusations of kitsch. Instead, the lyrics are genuinely uplifting and beautiful. “Everybody Loves You” does get a bit saccharine, but it’s redeemed by the funk-inflected pop of “Everything for Everyone.” It’s still not for everyone; I mean, it’s a funky song about helping people. There is no irony here.
Feldiken’s voice is solid, his songwriting is tight, and the EP wooshes by in with a grin and a dance step or two. Fans of Backyard Tire Fire, Bishop Allen and Guster will embrace Feldiken, as will anyone who loves an optimist.
I expected Feldiken to be some sort of techno project from Europe, based on the name. I could not have been more wrong. Feldiken is a Brooklyn-based innocent, buoyant pop band that sounds like an even more optimistic Backyard Tire Fire (yes, I know, that is somewhat difficult to fathom). With bouncy bass lines, organ and accordion accompaniment, lyrics bordering on naivete (in mostly a good way) and harmonies so comfortable that I feel like I already know them, it’s pretty hard to make a case for Feldiken to be anything but a straight-up pop band.
Small Songs About Us is acoustic-based pop, similar to Joshua Radin’s wide-eyed optimism. But where Joshua Radin takes turns for the depressive, Feldiken never goes there. The only remotely sad moment on the album is “Too Good,” where he recites a list of awesome things that are happening in his life and how he’s worried because they’re all too good to be happening. Bro, I’ll take that problem any day of the week. “Not Like Clockwork” is almost depressing, but the chorus comes around to realizing “Oh! I have friends, sunshine, laughter and a woman! And that makes my life better!” I am not exaggerating.
And although it does sound oppressively happy, it rarely reaches that point because the acoustic songwriting is well-grounded, unendingly melodic, and incredibly comfortable. The only point where it gets unbearable is “Rockin’ All the Way,” which feels like a kid’s song because it calls out the instruments as they enter the song. I just can’t bear it.
Thankfully, the sunshine is tempered in points throughout; “Like a Flower” has pensive moments, “This Bridge Won’t Burn” has a bit of a distorted edge to it, and “Like a Flower” has some doubt in the lyrics. “Like a Flower” is the winner here, as it evokes Josh Radin in all the right ways but remains true to the Feldiken aesthetic.
Take this away from this review: the acoustic pop here is so upbeat and charming that it makes zydeco (“Never Really Knew”) seem like a totally legitimate move within the sound the band has established. I like it a lot in small doses, especially “Too Good” and “Like a Flower,” but after a full album it’s hard to stomach. If you like happy music, you need this.