London based Fanfarlo – Reservoir debut album review
A band that got it right but arrived just too late
Fanfarlo are a prime example of a band that got it right but arrived just too late. Their sincere and mathematical indie pop gained a real following as the band began to emerge, but their debut was received with luke warm reactions from much of the music world and many critics.
The band launched their first album Reservoir after a huge number of aspirational bands, and indeed well established artists, had thrown their efforts into creating the melodic and orchestral sound Fanfarlo were pursuing in 2009. It did not work well for them. They were quickly written off as a mimic act, attempting to be the likes of Arcade Fire and the National. While it is true Fanfarlo’s music does seem to draw much “inspiration” from these famous groups, I wouldn’t go so far as to declare this five piece a spin off. I will admit that although some of the tracks have too much of a feel of deja vu to them, like “The Walls are Coming Down” which sounds scarily like Santa Fe native Zach Condon’s efforts in Beirut, others hold a unique charm to them, like Talking Backwards, with powerful and crooning vocals soaring over immaculate layers of piano chords, separate guitar melodies and percussion.
Indeed that is for me the reason the band is so attractive: the songs are meticulously thought through. Each instrument is so carefully layered into the chamber pop blend it is strikingly perfect. However the engineering of the album means Fanfarlo fans loose out when one attempts to interact with the tracks. They do not grow on you as you listen more and more, and nor can you extract any true emotion from them. As the band emerged in the late 2000s on the alternative folk scene more heartfelt acts like Laura Marling seemed to be what the UK public had an appetite for.
That having been said Simon Balthazar, the lead singer, does his best to bring some animation to Reservoir but his crooning still feels rather flat. However the effect is surprisingly not all that bad! The album has a subdued and pensive atmosphere and in fact its seriousness almost plays to its advantage in ensuring the singing chorus of mandolins, brass and violins do not sound sickeningly twee. The result is a lush and mature sound, which I feel plays to the bands advantage in creating something new in a saturated genre of music.
Fanfarlo initially released a series of singles, not featured on their debut, like the catchy track, You are One. They then went on to compile Reservoir in 2009. While I have talked about Fanfarlo’s sound as being a pleasant one, listening to an entire album of their work is rather monotonous. While they prove they can reproduce their style on a variety of melodies, it all gets a little repetitive as the tempo hardly varies and neither does the range of instruments or style of vocals. However I would thoroughly recommend purchasing the album. The individual tracks will provide some excellent listening which will prove a nice surprise on your shuffle once in a while. However I would thoroughly recommend purchasing the album. The individual tracks will provide some excellent listening which will prove a nice surprise on your shuffle once in a while.
Why are Fanfarlo relevant now I hear you asking! Well I have been following their progress since Reservoir and I’m looking forward to seeing what will become of their latest offering released this year, called Rooms Filled With Light. Much as I hope these three years since Fanfarlo’s debut will have given the band a chance to develop their style, I am concerned. The band seems to have taken the criticism of their music to heart and appear to be jumping ship from an orchestral sound to an electric one. Indeed their new single “Replicate” confirms my worries. This is a big mistake. There is still an appetite for acoustic music, and indeed this is what the band’s fans on facebook have been begging for more of. For the group to once again enter a new genre, and again later than rival acts; instead of sticking where they are finally being accepted as a band worth listening too; is a big mistake. If the album is once again declared an imitation piece and nothing unique or special then it may well be the final nail in the coffin for this London crew.
Fanfarlo have proved that they have the potential to create very sophisticated music. Its just a shame they were too late on the London indie scene for widespread recognition, and are too unaware of their fans wishes to go on to achieve the success their talent deserves. The future of this five piece act is hanging in the balance, but I sincerely hope they stick around to show the world what they can do.