Music Review: Fanfarlo's "Reservoir"

12/07/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Joshua Walkos

Fanfarlo get their name from the title of a novel by the influential 19th century French critic Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire was known as a champion for romantic artists such as Victor Hugo, Flaubert and Balzac. A London-based band, they are comprised of six members and was formed by lead vocalist and songwriter Simon Balthazar. Fanfarlo's musical chops are impressive. They employ an assortment of instruments such as the violin, glockenspiel, saxophone and yes even a saw to create a literary sound that dazzles your senses and builds from song to song. The listener is left intrigued by the lyrics but also compelled to get up and dance by the Balkan-style rhythms.

"Reservoir," their first major release, is a fully accomplished debut album released by WEA Records. It has drawn comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, Beirut and indie heroes Arcade Fire. Although those comparisons do have some truth to them, Fanfarlo have managed to carve their own vibrant sound in the buzz-band world of indie rock. Produced by Peter Katis (The National, Interpol), "Reservoir" starts off with "I'm A Pilot" and introduces Balthazar's delicate but quirky delivery that recalls Zach Condon from the band Beirut or David Byrne's croon. Like most of Fanfarlo's songs, it builds into a crescendo with its dusty piano and rhythmic march. They have a knack for drawing the listener in with patient intros that set the stage for jangly, euphoric heights that have a circus-like atmosphere, layered with romanticism and folly.

Perhaps the song that embodies this formula the best is "The Walls Are Coming Down," particularly with its soft plucking of the mandolin and beautiful use of the violin, coupled with the anthemic chorus that leaves an indelible imprint in your mind. Fanfarlo like to use obscure literary references in their songs such as "Harold T. Wilkins," who was a British journalist and amateur historian in the 1940s best know for his obsession of flying saucers. The song clearly pays homage to that obsession with these sorts of lyrics: "You’ve been packing your bags for the tenth time. You’ve been up on the roof again. And you’re biding your time, but it’s all righ--they’re coming any week now. Left behind by the mothership, they’re our only real friends. And inside, you’ll always feel the same, even when you wake up. Even if you wake up." Aliens and flying saucers aside, "Harold T. Wilkins" is a highlight of an album that has many highlights. Its whimsical lyrics, boisterous brass section and rousing sing-a-long finish come together to form a perfect storm of pastoral indie rock that will have you humming along as you wait for the mothership to arrive.

After impressive showings at industry schmooze fests like South by Southwest and the CMJ Music Marathon, Fanfarlo are garnering a lot of buzz within the music community and blogosphere. The attention has landed them a deal with Atlantic Records to re-lease "Reservoir" stateside. Overall, for a debut album, "Reservoir" exceeds expectations and stays with you long after your first listen. The songwriting is developed and mature beyond Balthazar’s years and complements the lushly arranged chamber pop perfectly.

Fanfarlo: "Harold T. Wilkins":

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