Freelance Whales are a five-piece out of Queens, New York that formed in late 2008. Their debut album, Weathervanes, has become one of my favourite releases of the year. Perhaps it was first listening to it in the dead of night, but Weathervanes took hold of me far more quickly than any album in recent memory. The band masterfully incorporates influences from several genres to create a record that can cohesively jump from the electro-pop of the Postal Service to acoustic folk reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens and back again. It’s the variety of sounds that makes Weathervanes so appealing. Banjos and synthesizers sit side-by-side at times, and it somehow works.
Opening track ‘Generator ^ First Floor’ evokes the very image it suggests, the band is powering up and a clear energy is building to prepare for the ensuing show. Glockenspiels and guitars swell as if the opening of an orchestra. It flows seamlessly into ‘Hannah,’ which I can’t determine to be a love song or just a tale of two dreamers. Either way, the banjo/synthesizer combo is prominent here, giving a whimsical, dreamy feeling. ‘Starring’ and ‘Kilojoules’ are both poppy upbeat tracks laced with synthesizers. ‘Broken Horse’ marks a shift into folk territory, a marked departure from the previous half of the album, but equally successful. The Sufjan comparison is most apt here as this wouldn’t sound out of place on Illinois, with biblical references and a similar voice, but it’s more an homage than a complete facsimile. Some albums feel like one long song, which can sometimes be a drag to listen to, but here we see multiple facets and capabilities that allow for something new to be discovered with each track. The album closes with the one-two punch of ‘Generator ^ Second Floor’, which recalls the opening track, and the funereal tones of ‘The Great Estates.’ As a result, the album feels like a life lived in forty-five minutes, evenly filled with both highs and lows.
Freelance Whales have made a habit of playing on the streets and subways of New York, perhaps being the origin of the freelance portion of their name. If this album gets the attention it deserves, I’d love to see them get to do this full-time. They put Shamu to shame. The band has recently set off on their first tour supporting Fanfarlo, making a stop in Toronto at the El Mocambo on December 15. I recommend checking them out.
Tags: Freelance Whales