Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Fireships: Joy sprinkled with darkness

April 1, 2015

fireships

Fireships’ self-titled album is purely a joy to listen to. Their playful yet smart lyrics combine with brilliant instrumentation to make Fireships one you need to grab.

The album’s multifaceted influences will be sure to please a variety of audiences. With the overall feel of the album being rather uplifting, one might think that that’s all there is to the album. I mean, with an opener like “All We Got,” what more do we need than that driving beat, enlivening lyrics, and humble vocals? Yet, Fireships has even more to offer us!

With a closer look, you begin to hear folk, western, and even some African influences. Both “Chasing the Sun” and  “Countdown Time” show a Spaghetti Western influence. “Come Back To Me” enters with a very Caribbean feel done through its opening rhythms and instrumentation; “Going Down Fighting” is very reminiscent of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” The choral voices in “Fantasy” are reminiscent of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”

One thing that stands out throughout the album is Fireships’ ingenious instrumentation. Each instrument is used to add different things for different songs: the guitar is playful in “Chasing the Sun”, yet soulful in “Long Shadow.” The sweetness in “Words Escape Me” comes from the guitar too; when paired with the violin, the six-string adds darkness to  “Carried Away.”

Although mostly cheery and upbeat, Fireships does have its moments of darkness, which serve to even out the sound. The best example of this is the juxtaposition between singles “Gush” and “Countdown Time,” both of which you can listen to now.  “Gush” begins with an opening guitar riff that is oddly reminiscent of Fountains Of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom.” As the track continues, it simply gets cuter and cuter (unlike “Stacy’s Mom,” which just gets creepier and creepier). And as “Gush” fades out and “Countdown Time” enters in, there’s a bit of uneasiness lingering.

Although “Countdown Time” sounds dark through it’s minor chords and ominous tone, the track is still just as playful as “Gush” (as evidenced by the track’s music video). The experience of hearing their most darling–but not cheesy–love song, then one of the darkest sounding tracks on the album, then the almost Bob Dylan-esque “Long Shadow” gives the listener a moment of darkness quickly swallowed up by folky happiness again. These transitions allow the album to be upbeat and happy, yet contain depth sprinkled with darkness.

Fireships was thoughtful enough to prepare us for the album’s end by closing with a song of preparation. “Unplug the Stars” serves as the perfect ending to a wonderful album. The repetition of the lyric “it’s time,” the gently driving beat, and calming strums of the guitar enable the listener to find reconciliation with the end of the album just in time for it to come to a close. Nothing could be a better example of Fireships’ brilliance.

Pre-order Fireships here!–Krisann Janowitz

The Lonely Wild's Spaghetti Western indie rock has vast potential to be realized

June 24, 2011

Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks to Spaghetti Westerns are iconic and oft-parodied.  But the theme to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” isn’t itself the butt of jokes; it is more often the punchline.

Morricone’s works are majestic examples of structural music: you can’t appreciate them by themselves. They are incredible soundtracks, but they are simply that — something must be happening for them to make sense. You can put anything in the frame that the Italian’s scores create; just think of all the different places you’ve heard the classic “wee-ooo-wee-ooo-woo” opening. The humor comes when the situation in the frame doesn’t live up to the (exaggeratedly) high tension associated with the original scenes. It’s an easy and endless joke. It’s also why The Lonely Wild is great.

The Lonely Wild is a band that appropriates the sound of Spaghetti Westerns and puts indie rock in the frame. The band creates pieces with incredibly high drama by taking social cues (clip-clop rhythms, distant reverb) for Spaghetti Westerns and stapling indie rock to them. The songs on their five-song EP Dead End naturally acquire the sort of odd tension that Spaghetti Westerns themselves have. If you buy into the whole piece of art, the drama has reached a breaking point; if you haven’t, it just seems a bit overblown.

I’ve always bit on white hats vs. black hats, much to my sophisticated self’s chagrin. (Not every movie can be an ethical dilemma like Crash or Do the Right Thing.) Similarly, I’ve fallen for The Lonely Wild’s crazy idea. That’s why “Hail” (trumpets, guitar tone) and “Right Side of the Road” (Whistling, faux horsebeats, plodding rhythms) are my favorite tunes here. The members sell the shtick hook, line and sinker. It’s so completely melded together that “Dead End,” which features almost no distinctly Spaghetti markers, feels like it should be from some other band. The swooning pedal steel doesn’t count.

On the other hand, it could just be that it’s a lesser tune. “Out of My Mind” doesn’t have a whole lot of Morricone influence either, but the wry melody is so infectious that you’ll remember it regardless (again, the pedal steel doesn’t count towards its Italian-ness). The shared male/female vocals are another element that make “Out of My Mind” (and the whole EP) stand out.

There’s still room to grow here; none of these songs are the total knockout that this band is capable of. The songs are well-thought-out, the performances are tight, and the recordings are immaculate — but there’s no Arcade Fire “Wake Up” here. This is a band that I feel is capable of a “Wake Up”-type smash, so I’m holding it to nothing less than that.

Definitely check The Lonely Wild’s Dead End out. They’ve been relentlessly self-promoting their DIY ways, and that’s always to be lauded. But in addition to that, they’re vastly creative and entertaining.

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

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