Nothing can save you from the dark reality of the Tuesday after a Monday holiday like being back at work knowing there is a interesting group of new releases out today -- not tomorrow. Sorry.
Leading the way today is indie rock/pop outfit Fol Chen and their latest release/concept album continuum Part II: The New December. The Los Angeles sextet are ever the mysterious bunch -- always obscuring their faces and eyes (something lead singer Samuel Bing stumbled upon at a performance in 2009) -- and their enigmatic, sprawling music acts as the perfect compliment.
Bolstering Part II is lead single/Sirius XMU stalwart "In Ruins," a jingly little ditty featuring irresistible vocals from Karin Tatoyin that is multifarious as it is mystifyingly catchy. Pegging down Fol Chen isn't the easiest thing to do, but what they do is something refreshingly unique and, thus, critically acclaimed in today's music scene. That doesn't mean you won't have a few head scratches wondering what the band's concept is all about.
What the critics are saying:
The singsong electro-pop of "The Holograms" and "In Ruins," the horror-movie drones of the Liars-assisted "This Is Where The Road Belongs," the stiffly soulful, Terence Trent D'Arby-evoking "C/U," and the dainty coos of "Adeline (You Always Look So Bored)" sound like they come from completely different bands, while half-formed songs such as "Men, Beasts Or Houses" and "The Holes" sag under the weight of too many samples substituting for musical direction.
Part II: The New December is, naturally, a concept album with a narrative thread that has something to do with a virus destroying language, but thankfully, the songs work in isolation. The music is jittery and glitchy, leaning heavily on electronics to drive them along, like a less frantic version of the Mae Shi. The arrangements aren't always cluttered, but there's no attempt to pull back from that busyness either until the final, contemplative title track arrives.
As you listen, echoes crop up of a melange of various distinctive folk. The jerky jaunt of 'The Holograms', for example, sounds like a proggy take on The Notwist or uber-cool Canadians Oen Sujet. Other tracks sound like a more off-kilter and eclectic Stereolab - 'In Ruins', with its gorgeous sultry vocals by LA chanteuse Karin Tatoyan, and the sweet angular pop of 'Adeline' with vocals by Simone White.
Hearing the opening track of Part II: The New December, "Holograms", much seems possible. Jagged, dub-step manqué beats set a distinctly futuristic tone. The vocal is an enjoyable approximation of Regina Spektor making the most of being put in a tumble dryer. Noisier drums wouldn't hurt, but there's a real sense that the hype might be justified.
Part II: The New December is out now via Asthmatic Kitty.