The Fresh & Onlys – House of Spirits

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

The Fresh and Onlys have been on fire, more or less, for the last five years.  No matter what they do, it’s hard to find detractors of their musical accomplishments, and yet it still seems like the band have something to prove, or room to grow.  House of Spirits is a record draped in imagery, largely crafted during a period of isolation in Arizona for member Tim Cohen; it’s an example of how well the band works when crafting songs together.

“Home is Where” opens up with little more than Cohen’s voice, illustrating the bare bones approach that led towards the completion of the record.  Soon, the rest of the group joins in, providing a spirited pace that comes off as an exhilarating stomp with cascading guitars falling through the cracks left by Tim’s haunting voice.  It gears you up for “Who Let the Devil,” which is perhaps one of the best songs the bands have written to date, seriously.  There’s a trickling bit of guitar beneath the cymbal work, leaving room for the distant howl of Cohen to lurk in the distance.  While the vocals still hold onto the traditional fare from Fresh & Onlys, they also soar into a loftier pitch during the chorus.  But, like most affairs from the band, they don’t stand in one place for too long.

There’s this feeling of contemplation that permeates House of Spirits, but perhaps no track exemplifies this more than “Animal of One.” I’ve grown fond of the line “the point of forgiving is so you forget, that being forgiven is all in your mind.”  Taken out of context, it might not seem as drastically poetic as I feel it is, but put into the context of this track and the album, it takes on greater meaning.  The delivery of the chorus is also emotionally striking, rising high in the mix, while the rest of the song seems to hold back for some Western-influenced introspection. But, while the lyrical content of this album is superb, there’s also these little touches that have really brought the record alive.

On “April Fools,” for instance, there’s a wash of keyboards just barely audible.  It’s not particularly forward-thinking, but these little flourishes have really added to the depth of sound in the band’s writing, demonstrating just how much they’ve grown since their inception…they seem to have left the idea of psychedelia behind, in some respects.  This is especially evident on “Ballerina,” which comes across like a track that the Walkmen would have written at their best; it’s a simple ballad that works atop a simple percussive element.  You’ll also find a backing vocal that perfectly accents the chorus from Cohen.  And such are the fine touches that make the group rise above their peers.

For me, there’s a change in the sound of Fresh & Onlys, and one that’s been foreseen if you’ve followed the work of the members outside of the band, such as Magic Trick or Wymond Miles.  On House of Spirits, the band seems to have brought in elements from all their various projects, leaving listeners with a cohesive record that will long stand up in the hearts of its audience.

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