Friend Roulette - The Matt Sheffer Songbook, Vol. 1

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:8 Release Date:2017-06-16

Starting off with this EP, I had absolutely no idea who Friend Roulette were, or what Matt Sheffer songbook might sound like. But looking at the song titles on this Roulette The Matt Sheffer Songbook 1, I knew I had to check it out, because one title, that even crops up twice, caught my attention - Viva Zyprexa. For those uninitiated, as users, or as somebody close to one, Zyprexa is a widely used, fast-acting anti-depressant. It is a quick-fix but usually sends the user as quickly back to the drawing board as the trouble hits again. I was wandering how an experimental pop six-piece from Brooklyn, even with the experimental as an added element to pop could handle the subject matter.

Actually, they had to handle Matt Shaffer’s songs first since it is his original subject matter after all. It turns out that Matt is a good friend of the band’s and that the EP title is as straightforward as it gets. Not knowing the songs in their original form, it is hard to tell how much the band added of their own musical ideas to it, but I can certainly tell you that they came up with quite an enjoyable little record.

Friend Roulette themselves run along the lines explored by co-Brooklynites Wilsen, something you can loosely call folky shoegaze - a late night atmosphere with a distinct guitar sound, good female vocals and as in the case of the opener, You’re A Fox, a good string arrangement. The following track, Snow Pea, with its jazzy organ/analog synthesiser arrangement adds a sound somewhat akin to Broadcast, while Joan has a good late-night melody and a tasteful arrangement that practically stand on their own. The first incarnation of the Zyprexa theme with its violin and electronics introduction and bossa-like theme strike that ‘experimental pop’ line. In a good way. Bacon and Raisins with its vocals and clarinet could easily be good material for the next Bebel Gilberto album - what a good, modern bossa nova tune should sound like as far as I’m concerned. Closing the EP, the Zyprexa theme comes back again, this time in a moody electronic mix (Meltermix, actually) and confers the promise rests of the material has shown.

Downsides? It is an EP. More was required.

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