The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance

Rating: ★★★★☆

I listened to this record 8 or 9 times, all along thinking it was on the verge of either a 3.5, but not quite.  I figured my love and adoration might just push it over the edge, so I gave it a few more spins. Then it hit me, Long Slow Dance is perhaps the most focused and complete the Fresh & Onlys have completed up to this point in their short career.  Given, they’ve stripped away a little bit of the reverb, but it makes way for a clarity that is really appreciated by those following Tim Cohen and company.

“20 Days and 20 nights” opens with a bit of a catchy jangle, holding back on the pace just a bit.  It allows for the perfect introduction to a more polished-sounding Tim Cohen. His voice sounds steady, rather than wavering in the hazy distance as you’ve come to find on Fresh & Onlys records. If you listen closely this time around, you might even catch a bit more emotion in his voice–it’s barely audible, but listen closely.  For me, an avid fan, it all indicates a more confident singer, and group for that matter.  Years ago I couldn’t have imagine them creating tunes like “Long Slow Dance,” which closely resembles a folk ballad.  Percussion is turned down low, giving the strum of the guitar and the dancing tambourine a little bit more emphasis.  While they hold back in spots, they do unleash a little bit more power in various spots.

My first notice was “Yes or No?”  Once that guitar enters accompanied by the drum, you know exactly that these guys mean business.  Like most tunes on Long Slow Dance, it’s clearly linked to the annals of the band’s previous works, just with more punch. Or, you can listen to “Euphoria,” which again utilizes more pronounced drum work, not to mention some cascading guitar-lines. Honestly, the first ten second almost gave me a punk rock feel–that’s until Tim came into haunt the track with his heavy vocals. And, such emphatic songs are great in the scheme of things, but I really like the extra touches outside of the group’s normalcy that they’ve chosen to include.

Have you listened to “Fire Alarm?” It’s got a strong electronic bent to begin, and while that remains slightly in the back, there’s a definite groove that doesn’t sound too familiar on most Fresh & Onlys albums, being one of the reasons I really like it.  Take the group’s psychedelic touch, mix it in with hints of the 80s swatch, and you have one of the most intriguing songs on the record. Or you might want to take a look at “Foolish Person,” where you’ll find the band flirting with touches of modern pop construction, using Tim’s vocal to captivate listeners while the rest of the posse work their magic…and then it just blasts off into experimental noise to wrap out the 6 minute track.  There’s not much else like it in the band’s catalogue.

While I may have been on the fence a bit, that’s just my own idiocy. Long Slow Dance finds the San Francisco group mixing in newer influences and stronger studio production to knock this one out of the park.  You know Fresh & Onlys can write great songs, but this time they’ve written twelve, using every bit of their influences to create a refreshing record that only gets better the more you listen.

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