Freelance Whales – Weathervanes
With their beautiful and rousing debut Weathervanes, the Freelance Whales snatch a victorious Spring from the icy clutches of Winter, with fascinating oscillations of meter and melody delivered on big fluffy womb-like clouds of melancholy optimism. Through sweetly delivered vocals fluttering over choice instrumentation I can already see the lime floating in the gin soaked summer nights. And it’s a good thing, because with a band name like the Freelance Whales, the music had better be exceptional.
The album is incredibly appealing, with its pleasant dream-like feel enhanced by the billowy grit of a melodica and microkorg drone under tasteful banjo parts and layered with floatingly hummable melodies. The vocals have an earnest delicacy whose playfulness is only enhanced when the lyrical pace increases, showcased in the near perfection of the second song, “Hannah”. Its gratifying arrangement of driving rhythm and fast paced vocal delivery hits all the right spots, dropping to half time and a syncopated beat, allowing the chorus to release the longing and emotion pent up from the verse. Add the fun layer of extraneous jangly bells and swirls and you’ve got comfort food for summer.
But it’s when the fifth song starts that you realize that you’ve already been hooked; they had marked you in the store before you even knew you were listening and tapping and humming. That song is “Starring”, and that title word moves far past merely memorable into the earworm territory of Wrath of Kahn, only voluntary and pleasurable. The first wash of the microkorg grabs you on a primal level, communicating directly with your autonomic nervous system, commanding it to release endorphins. As soon as the trippy break beat starts, you realize that this album just broke through, just went from good to great. And plus, any album that references kilojoules gets extra points in my book.
The second half of the album settles into a continuation of variations on the theme, including the evocative “Broken Horse” and the fantastic closer “The Great Estates”. Amidst the breathy whispers of repeating vowels and melodic hooks reminiscent of the Police, if Sting had never left the hammock, you’ll find an album that flows easily and fluidly as a trapeze artist, wrapped in a wooly blanket of dreamy glockenspiels, taking a warm bath in electrofuzz melodica. This is the stuff that outdoor evenings in the summer are made for. And considering they have at least nine (9!) shows in Austin this week around South by Southwest, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch multiple sets, and I for one hope that their live show can live up to this album.