Eines der kleinen Schätze 2010. (Juls)
vielen vielen dank für die vorstellung! ein wahrhaft tolles album! (noplace)
An sich ja schon ein gelungenes Album, aber hin und wieder finde ich die Songs leider ein wenig arg gleichförmig. Für den Nachfolger ist da auf jeden Fall noch Luft nach oben. (Christoph W.)
Diluvia is built differently than its predecessor, Weathervanes, in that the band has placed a greater emphasis on developing atmosphere than unleashing immediate hooks. In turn, Judah Dadone and company have toned down the quirkiness in favor of richly textured creations that take longer to unfold (Weathervanes had only one song that passed the five-minute mark; Diluvia has five) and, inevitably, take a little while longer to reveal their inner beauty. (Is it a coincidence that diluvia is defined as “rock material deposited by glaciers”?) Not that Freelance Whales’ music has changed all that drastically: There’s still a healthy helping of banjo, and things like the piano at the beginning of “Follow Through” and the guitar that shows up halfway through “The Nothing” demand yet more Ben Gibbard-related comparisons. (Though Dadone’s vocals no longer bring to mind the Death Cab/Postal Service frontman the way they did on Freelance Whales’ debut.)
But this time around, the synths steer nearly everything in a dreamy direction, and enough can’t be said of Doris Cellar’s increased presence on the microphone. Her voice hits its peak during “Winter Seeds,” a slow-moving, airy piece of accessible yet smart pop that finds Cellar getting her Elizabeth Fraser on. It might not be as traditionally catchy as, say, Weathervanes’ “Starring,” but it just might be the band’s finest moment.
The lyrics on Diluvia play well with the musical proceedings, offering more mystery than clear-cut storylines as it talks of pterodactyl bones, DNA on a boat in the Euphrates, and having “the rations to go anywhere.” The overall effect is something Freelance Whales can call their own—because for all of the comparisons one can find here (in addition to the above, traces of The Killers can be heard in “Locked Out,” and the album closes on a Mew-like high note with “Emergence Exit”), by album two they’ve developed a distinctive sound from their corner of the synth-folk universe, and they’ve done it while expanding their palette. With this grower, Freelance Whales have avoided the sophomore slump and grown into one of indie rock’s most intriguing new acts.
Weathervanes previously waded into the treacherous waters of “concept album” to tell an elaborate ghost story, and Freelance Whales have bafflingly decided to concoct an even grander concept for Diluvia. In what almost seems like a middle finger to crook-eyed critics, Freelance Whales are now tackling science fiction. Space travel provides the jumping off point for all sorts of stoney meditations, with the hope being that the listeners will get as much out of the journey as their imagination will let them. The reality is that some might get stuck on moments like the repeated declaration in “Locked Out”, where primary vocalist Judah Dadone informs us that “they have the rations to go anywhere.”
With an abundance of too-concrete lyrics full of space jargon, it’s confounding that Freelance Whales can’t find anything worthwhile to write about in the reality in which they live. Sure, it’s their prerogative to spend their entire career speculating about that which is beyond perception, but for a band that sprang forth into our music consciousness as glorified street performers, their songwriting seems light-years away from these humble and organic beginnings. The contradiction resonates, leaving Diluvia difficult to engage with on any sort of personal level. And, with so little to attach listener to song, the effort required to reap rewards from the listening experience is hardly even worth it.
In the album’s favor, the five-piece have made a strong leap in the complexity and ambition of their arrangements. While there is little original about their sound, prior similarities to The Postal Service and Sufjan Stevens are slightly muted on this effort. The songs sprawl, taking time to build satisfying crescendos, from the delicate dance of wordless vocal harmonization on opener “Aeolus”, to the successful marriage of their beloved banjo and glockenspiel to a synthesizer lead and lush string orchestration on the album’s highlight, “Spitting Image”. There is something admirable in the fact that Freelance Whales have managed to make Diluvia sound like a space journey, albeit one that wears on the patience in its 52-minute running time.
If nothing else, Diluvia demonstrates growth for the band by finding a happy medium between a familiar sound and some well-placed surprises. It’s still unclear whether bands like Freelance Whales would be better off as artists if they existed 20 years ago, spending some time honing their craft in their local scene of New York before being sold to the rest of America. The biggest concern that Diluvia raises is whether we are better off with bands like Freelance Whales populating the strange place between critical and commercial success, or if listening to what seems like an endless parade of competent but uninspiring material is hurting the music community as a whole. Whatever side you come up on, Freelance Whales seem to be doing exactly what they intend, and their core audience should be satisfied.