The Fresh & Onlys - House of Spirits - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Fresh & Onlys - House of Spirits

by Alexis Somerville Rating:6.5 Release Date:2014-06-10

House of Spirits opens with what sounds like a song from a 1980s American musical, with a piano intro and the lines: “Home is where your feet are/ Walking in the wee hours/ Living the good life.” Then the drums and guitars kick in and ‘Home is Where?’ transforms into the kind of lively new wave track we’ve come to expect from San Francisco’s The Fresh & Onlys, following their last album, Long Slow Dance, and last year’s Soothsayer EP.


Next up is a melancholy post-punk track ‘Who Let The Devil’ with vocals low in the mix lamenting: “I was born dying.” The album’s first single, the shoegazey ‘Bells of Paonia’, contrasts a melodic chorus with scuzzy guitar as Tim Cohen sings: “Who’s gonna empty me out/ In the lake in the heart of the valley?/ Who’s gonna follow me down?” Lyrically, House of Spirits is often more obscure than its poppier predecessor.


‘Animal of One’ features some post-punk guitar noodling with echoey Robert Smith-esque vocals and a soaring chorus. It fades out into ‘I’m Awake’, which ironically is one of the sleepier tracks on the album. ‘Hummingbird’ is faster but equally lacking in light and shade. Things get more exciting with ‘April Fools’, an energetic track which wouldn’t be out of place on Long Slow Dance. ‘Ballerina’ rolls along pleasantly enough, with its unashamedly 80s guitar and country twang.


‘Candy’ is a highlight, with its leading bassline and Cohen’s brooding refrain: “You know you’re not the only one/ Who is thirsty.” A bit of brass gives it a ska edge towards the end, a sound they have veered towards occasionally in the past. It would be nice to hear them doing more in this style - it’s a welcome addition to their jangly new wave guitar pop and could save them from repeating the same formula one time too often.


Tempo-wise, House of Spirits is definitely a cohesive album. In some ways this is a good thing, but unfortunately it's also a little samey, and the production feels too muddy in places. As an album it’s not as memorable as much of their previous output. Still, there are several good tracks and it’s a decent addition to their catalogue. They have been fairly prolifiic since forming in 2008, and hopefully their next record will show them realise more of their potential (of which they have bucketloads). In the meantime, see them live - that’s where they’re in their element.

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