19 July 2009

Pop Rock That Fails to Pop

I first happened upon the Lovely Feathers while listening through the soundtrack to The Vice Guide to Travel, which featured the Montreal-based quintet's song "Frantic." It stood apart from typical pop rock because it took risks: sudden, drastic changes in tempo and excited, dueling vocals that harmoniously came together, gettting damn-near silly in the process (at one point the singers seemingly collapse into giggles). These risks were taken upon a sturdy base of what pop rock should be: enjoyable hooks and a quick rhythm section. The end-product was fun and accessible, but still innovative and thus memorable.

Many of those features can also be found on the Lovely Feather's latest offering, The Fantasy of the Lot, the band's second official LP that's being released on August 18th. Listening to the album's first single, "Lowiza", the sharp guitar melodies and rhythm section are pleasantly familiar. So are the two voices, although they now perform in unison, like a grand sing along chorus, or one is relegated to merely providing back-up. This unfortunate stylistic shift pervades all of the album's eleven tracks (twelve if you count the alternate version of "Family That Doesn't Know the Game"). The band has seemingly abandoned their old unrestrained style of singing for something more standard. It's a shame. The song's lyrics, which concern a man divided between the duty he has towards his wife and children and the sincere love he has for his mistress, are representative of the album's general focus on the lives and ills of the common man. The lyrics are nice, but they aren't poetry.

Although they're absent from "Lowiza", the Lovely Feather's signature tempo changes can aslo be found on The Fantasy of the Lot, although they are now much more hit-and-miss. "Ossified Homes", probably the album's best track, effectively utilizes the change in time signature. It is also one of the only songs to feature a build-up, which gives the band an opportunity to channel the excitement and passion characteristic of their earlier efforts.

There are other instances when these risky transition simply fail. "Loading Dock" is ripe with abrupt changes in tempo, but the do not pay off. Instead, the track sounds like three or four different songs poorly cut and pasted together. When the principal one ends, there is a sudden shift in both tempo and melody, with the slow, soft emergence of violins. This is overcome by a fast, resurgent drum beat, but that is quickly snuffed out, and the song switches gears back to the violins. It maybe be an example of the band's more avant-garde aspirations, but it sounds like someone messed up while they were mastering the album.

Aside from three or four standout songs, most of the tracks on Fantasy of the Lot are mediocre, suffering from a lack of inspiration and far too much focus on an uninventive rhythm section, which is featured too prominently in the foreground. Generally speaking, the band's principal mistake seems to be that they forgot what people want from pop music: addictive melodies. Pop music without hooks misses the point of pop. It's like electro that you can't dance to or hardcore that isn't angry. Lacking that necessary hook, much of Fantasy of the Lot passes by like a sunny day you spend indoors doing nothing. It's not bad, but it's kind of boring.

1 comment:

  1. Reminiscent of Matt and Kim. Catchy. At least the first song. Why aren't you putting this stuff on sbtvc?