@review BUDDY PINNEO
RELEASED: September 29, 2009 (USA)
Weeks ago, a friend of mine was walking by a row of discounted CDs and, being the impulsive type, she was snared solely by the cover of Fanfarlo’s Reservoir, which is really just a sepia tone photograph.
Still, the photo’s credentials are impressive: shot by Czech photographer Lilja Birgisdottir, suggested by Icelandic band Sigur Ros’s lead singer, and featuring his little sister, Sigurros, from whom he took his band’s name.
If this is setting off your “pretentious” alarm bells, take heart: the music delivers. In fact, in a pop world dominated by Auto-Tune, synthetic instrumentation and high-gloss editing, Fanfarlo brings an authenticity to the table nearly as refreshing as 2011’s surprise-hit Mumford & Sons.
Their instrumentation has been called “eclectic,” and rightly so. Anchoring almost every track are piano, mandolin, violin, clarinet, glockenspiel and, gulp, trumpet. Occasional mariachi feel? Yes. But it works.
The opener is Reservoir’s finest moment. “I’m A Pilot” begins with an almost tribal percussion, yet quickly gives way to something delicate, melodic and slightly wistful. Reportedly inspired by the latter days of Howard Hughes, with mildly dark poetry to match, it’s a gorgeous song set in 6/8 time that will almost have you wishing for a waltz partner.
“Ghosts” raises the energy slightly and confirms my theory that any song with handclaps is impossible to dislike. Next up is “Luna,” which begins post-punk enough to feel straight out of the early 1980s. Yet before the halfway mark, the percussion relents slightly and allows the track to be claimed by lush orchestration, with Swedish-born frontman Simon Balthazar singing with his seemingly ubiquitous charisma and emotion.
What follows for the rest of the album is equally melodic, intricate, and meticulously executed. A close second for standout track is “If It Is Growing,” a mid-tempo ballad with lyrics as impenetrable as anything on Reservoir, but kind of feels like a beautiful breakup song. And we really can’t have too many of those.
Reservoir is Fanfarlo’s first studio album, as well as being more than two years old. But it provideS a glimpse into how a good band sounds right before they become great. We won’t have to wait long to see, as the follow-up Rooms Filled With Light is set for release in late February.