Fauxbois's first album, Carry On
feels homemade, for better or for worse. I vote better; the amateurish feeling comes out in different ways and genres rather than one shortcoming throughout, making it feel intentional. Opener "Dry Into Dust" features over-jammed instrumental passages with unpolished vocals that lean towards garagey, while the roughness of "Let It Fall Down" is more suggestive of a solo folk musician with an acoustic guitar. Occasionally this combination gives the album an undecided, underconfident feel, but for the most part is a welcome reprieve from the typical lo-fi folk/rock album.
There's a heavy dose of Wilco in there, the laid-back but earnest midwestern vocals reminiscent of choruses on "I'm A Wheel" or similar tracks, the homemade sound brought back when you hear singer Brian Mayer reaching the edge of his range. Even if the pitch is a little off for a second, it adds a human element that strengthens the sound. Meanwhile a Morning Benders-esque desperate edge sometimes creeps into his voice, feeling a lot less manic in this context.
Fauxbois's strength is in the attention to detail. Not in the most complex or detailed passages, which tend to sound overwrought, but in the small things that make the band stand out though the base of their sound is nothing revolutionary. The variation and complexity of the songs is enough to fill the sound completely at all times. Each second is tight, completely worked to its full extent and edited down to its simplest form. While aspects of the production come off as homemade, the actual musical arrangements never show lack of effort. The only pieces that detract from the tightness are the overwrought instrumental passages that each sound like a try for the album's one Epic Guitar Solo. The instrumentals themselves are well done, but the passages often feel self-indulgent and under-edited.
On my first listen the record felt all over the place, a little schizophrenic, with good ideas scattered in all directions, running from grunge to folk and back again. But after hearing it a few times it started to come together; now I hear an album that's solidly in a sort of antiquated but utterly loveable rock sound (like the good early 90s stuff: think Pixies + Weezer [early stuff only of course]) with a comprehensive but not whelming range of divergences.
So Carry On
is a little scatterbrained, but clearly visible in the thirteen-track album are a lot of effort and a lot of ideas. It seems as though they tried to cover all the bases, either to reach the most people possible or because they had too much to express. Either way, there's some stuff that just doesn't belong, like "Watery Eyes," an interesting experimental piece that feels like it just fell into the middle of the album. The album could probably be whittled down into a shorter record with a few less songs, each a few seconds shorter, and it would be perfect. That's probably oversimplifying the matter. But as is, the music is still earnest and deliberate, with tight transitions and thoughtful but not overthought lyrics, coming together as an unpretentious labor of love you'll listen to many times. -selden paterson
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Fauxbois on Myspace