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Reviews

Fanfarlo
Reservoir Adrian Lobb , June 12th, 2009 11:46

The relentless handclap, snare and bass march that kicks off this impressive, self-released debut could also represent the seemingly inevitable upward progress of a literary, outsider pop band. Of all the post-Arcade Fire bands attempting ambitious, multi-layered, rich pop tapestries, Fanfarlo are perhaps the most impressive. And they appear to be doing everything right.

With well-received shows at SXSW under their belt, as well as the patronage of David Bowie (he bigged them up in the Guardian last year) and, rather less impressively, Snow Patrol (who picked them as tour support in the UK recently), Fanfarlo have a lot going for them. Four singles released on the likes of Fortuna Pop, Fandango and White Heat also point to a well-connected bunch. Heck, even the cover shot was taken by Jonsi from Sigur Ros's sister.

Musically, as well as clearly adoring Montreal's finest, there are nods to Neutral Milk Hotel, Sufjan Stevens and Beirut (before Zack got carried away with his Rough Guide to world music) and a cheeky wink in the direction of a multitude of C86 bands. Swedish singer Simon Balthazar tops off the mix with a rare sensitivity of tone (can you have a wide-eyed voice?) and an endearing tendency to forego enunciation a la Alec Ounsworth from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

From the breathless indiepop of 'Harold T Wilkins...' and 'The Walls Are Coming Down' to the epic 'Comets' and current single 'Drowning Men', Fanfarlo's stock in trade is gradually building layers of acoustic loveliness into a joyous, lush melee, with just a touch of melancholy. 'Only Luna' reverses the trend, morphing from Strokes-y upbeat power pop to a mournful string-led refrain.

Such is the consistency, it is hard to pick standout tunes, but the three-minute pop joy of previous single 'Fire Escape' adds a welcome urgency as one of the few songs that wouldn't make excellent album closers.

If there is a criticism here, it is in the album's pacing. Packing long songs at the beginning – 'Comets' in particular appears to be bringing proceedings to a premature close – Reservoir takes too long to build momentum. But this is a minor quibble.

An uplifting, ambitious, and absurdly accomplished collection of songs, Reservoir is a thing of beauty. Treasure this band, they may just make the next few years much more bearable.

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