Posts Tagged ‘album of the year’

farfetchd-southern-skies-motel-cover

It’s not very often that a piece of music presents something new with almost each listen. That, I think, is one of the hallmarks of great music. “Southern Skies Motel” by Farfetch’d manages that very well.

The album might on first listen seem like a showcase of finger-style guitaring. But soon you’ll realise that as delicious as the guitar-play is, the music is more layered and richer. More than just the musicianship, this album shines through as a display of the compositional skills of Akash Murthy, whose solo project Farfetch’d is. Although the album is broken down conventionally into songs, it need not be. What is really interesting is that you can play the album in any order of the songs without the whole losing coherence. Each song is itself a multi-movement piece and I’ve gone to the extent of breaking them and refitting them in various combinations and yet the album sounds remarkably cogent. Fascinating stuff! If you haven’t heard the album as you read this, you won’t be faulted for thinking that if it can be done, then it must be because the music is of such stultifying monotony that moving parts around does not affect the flow. But the truth is that the music is very varied – in pace, in structure, in rhythm. That you can reconfigure the album and yet have it sound ‘together’ is the greatness of this work. At no point does Farfetch’d allow the listener’s interest to flag – Akash has even taken care to use his voice to good effect on a couple of pieces. Yet with much going on, the music does not feel overwrought – just beautifully and intelligently balanced. This album is so strong that any flaw that one could point out will look silly and be an exercise in nitpicking. One of the best albums that I’ve heard this year.

Try and listen to it on the headphone as well as on speakers.

P.S.: It’s been a little over an year since I last wrote on this blog – never mind the reasons. I couldn’t have picked a better piece of music to get back to writing.

New Bermuda

If anyone had questions about deafheaven being able to follow up 2013’s “Sunbather” with something as good, the band’s latest release, “New Bermuda” buries their doubts in the deep density of a black hole…or that place in the Atlantic where things allegedly check-in but never leave. Perhaps the most repeated term used in association with “Sunbather” is ‘polarising’, dividing listeners as those who love it and those that deride it for for its lack of ‘pure’ black metal creds. I can understand why the ‘purists’ have a problem with it but if these folk had their way, we’d still be thinking the world is flat and that off the edge is a precipitous drop into nothingness. Thankfully, on the evidence of “New Bermuda” the band isn’t bothered at all by such criticism. I fell in love with “Sunbather” two years back but I rate this new album even higher. It feels more cogent, nuanced and evolved.

Church bells leading into a song have been done to death. But even a tired tool of the trade takes on a rare freshness as the very short cheer of the Christmas-like chimes a few seconds into the start of the opener, “Brought To The Water” only heightens the all-consuming sense of drowning in dark depths. The quality of the music never takes a dip anywhere on the album. The furious “Luna” suddenly melting surprisingly into a dreamy interlude; gliding post-rock arrangements of “Baby Blue” breaking out into a dense, guitar-drenched space; the manic, raging despair of “Come Back” folding gracefully into one of the most beautiful codas I’ve heard; the quiet, dignified acceptance of the inevitable end in the oddly uplifting album-closer “Gifts For The Earth” as George Clarke goes: Then further downward so that I can rest, cocooned by the heat of the ocean floor. In the dark, my flesh to disintegrate into consumption for the earth. This is heartrendingly beautiful music; its underlying desolation marked by a stunning poignance. I’m not much for lists but if I had to pick my album of the year, “New Bermuda” would be it.

I love, adore, respect deafheaven’s music for the same reason that I do that of bands like Agalloch and The Ocean. They are formed of a rare combination of ambition, imagination and intelligence. These are not ‘flat earth’ purists. They are not stymied by stasis and they will keep pushing frontiers wider and deeper.