As I begin compiling my best of 2009 list, I have been re-listening to a lot of the albums throughout the year.
“Weathervanes” by the Freelance Whales is one of those that I don’t have to revisit, but have anyways. After first hearing some of their music on a very highly rated review on a blog, I bought their album on good ‘ol iTunes. It seems that if the band name has whale in it I must like it, because this is definitely one of the top albums of the year for me.
Having been likened to a folkier passion pit, their melodies, lyrics and instrumentation are what make this album. It seems as though every song is filled with instruments, but none of them get in the way of each other. Banjos, bells, banjos, tambourines, glockenspiels, harmoniums, keyboards, xylophones, electronics, synths, handclaps. You name it. it’s here. And wisely used. The melody is always in the forefront, creating music that is familiar and memorable. Vocally, there are several styles. The falsetto stylings dominate most of the album, harmonies throughout, with the folky elements of Sufjan permeating through on select tracks. In fact “Broken Horse” sounds like it could fit on Rosie Thomas and Sufjan Steven’s collaboration.
The opening tracks “Generator ^ First Floor” starts of slowly with some electronic noise, a slick banjo line, some xylophone, then builds with guitar and some catchy vocalizations. Following that is “Hannah”, which starts of with a synth melody, and then builds off a similar banjo line from the first track, with vocals in both styles. “Location” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. A simple sounding song with an electronic pulse in the background, supplemented by acoustic and electric guitars, and what sounds like a choir of sorts. Throughout the rest of the album, the Freelance Whales build upon the previous song, segue into the next without sounding repetitious yet never straying too far. A couple instrumental tracks bookend the most upbeat part of the album (excluding “Broken Horse”). This is where the Ra Ra Riot comparisons seem to come into play. Shuffley, danceable, folky, indie-rock. The next couple tracks bring the album back down a bit. The mid-tempo folkiness showcases the beauty of the songwriting and musicianship. And following a third instrumental interlude the album returns to where it started. “Generator ^ Second Floor” starts off with a simple plucked banjo, building with more banjo, into xylophone, tamborine, kick drum, and then finally into the vocals. This second to last track is an instant highlight to the album leading into the closer which brings it back out mellowly, with repeating mantra like lyrics.
We get up early just to start cranking the generator
Are limbs have been asleep, we need to get the blood back in them
We’re finding every day, several ways that we can be friends
We keep on churning and the lights inside the house turn on
And in our native language we are chanting ancient songs
Then when we quiet down, the house chants on without us.
A couple listens to the full album and I was hooked. The album almost feels like a journey. Like the songs, the album has rises and falls. Building upon simple melodies, accentuating without overdoing it. This is an album that I was immediately surprised by. The best kind. One where you put it on, and listen to it all day. Then come back and throw it on again the next day. It’s an album you can listen to in the background, in the car when driving, or giving it the attention it deserves. And I love the album cover as well. Expect to be hearing this album a lot more in the next year when it will likely receive the exposure it deserves, and also look for it on my best of 2009 list. Make sure you go buy it now and support this great band.
Check em out on myspace