I’ve followed Fairmont through three full-length albums and an EP. It’s not a surprise to me that Transcendence, the fourth full-length by Neil Sabatino and Co. that I’ve had the privilege of reviewing, improves on their last work musically. This is a trend they have continued (with only the occasional slip-up) since the beginning of their time as a band. The startling thing about Transcendence is the fact that everything else about the album is amazing as well.
Not to knock on Fairmont’s previous work (you will find my glowing reviews of their previous work if you search), but it always fell just short of that thing that kept it playing in my CD player. Maybe the lyrics were horribly morose. The song order was sketchy. Sometimes the songs had great parts and regrettable parts mashed next to each other. Transcendence fixes all these problems and creates a total album.
Yes, Transcendence should be played front to back each time, because the song order matters. The album has an ebb and flow that would be totally lost in a pick-and-choose listening. The songs of Transcendence seem autobiographical in the best sense: the album feels chronological, as if I were reading a book about Neil Sabatino. This, again, is due to the song order, which places a discussion of his childhood spent in an apocalyptic commune first. The bizarre conduct of the cult sets the stage for the skepticism and existentialism that characterize the rest of the album. It’s easy to draw connections in all of the other songs from points within the first song (the easiest being a reprise of the bridge in the last song, with more obscure references and touchpoints throughout). In short, the lyrics and song order suck me into a world that I inhabit for forty minutes. Seeing as Sabatino’s existentialism is completely counter to my Christian worldview, my total immersement in the ideas and themes of the album while I’m hearing it is a compliment to the descriptive and impassioned quality of the lyrics.
But it’s not just the lyrics that make tunes like “Everyone Hates a Critic” and “Luck Will Change” into the outstanding pieces of music they are. Highlight “Everyone Hates a Critic” has an incredibly interesting rhythmic pattern and a neat chord progression. It’s hard to not like it. “Luck Will Change,” while being the bleakest on the album, lyrically, is pretty upbeat and fun. Both songs feature piano/synths, which is a new thing for Fairmont, and it’s a very good thing.
In terms of rocking, “Omaha” wins. It has a raucous riff, a sinister mood, and a vaguely surf-rock mood. I sing it when it comes up on the album. “Melt Your Heart” is also pretty punked-out for being a love song.
“Melt Your Heart” ends with the bridge from the first song “Being and Nothingness,” as the male and female vocalists declare their love for each other over the repeated group-sing of “aimless!” It’s the transcendence that Fairmont named the album after; love will overcome the existential angst of being. Whether or not that’s what you think, you will enjoy this pop/rock album; it’s expertly crafted and precisely written. Easily the best Fairmont has produced.