The New Classics

March 27, 2009

Album Review: Handsome Furs, Face Control

Filed under: Album Review, Indie Pop, Indie Rock — Tags: , — Greg @ 9:56 am


It takes something really special for me to really latch onto newer bands lately. It does happen: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver & Frightened Rabbit have all become favorites of mine within the past year, all putting out superb albums in 2008. And then there are the groups who put out a song or two that I really like, but the rest of the material doesn’t connect with me for whatever reason. Blitzen Trapper, Black Lips and Grizzly Bear, to name recent examples, all fall into that category for me. Those are bands that I will probably follow for as long as they continue to put out music, but I don’t feel any obligation to own everything that they create.

I don’t really know what I expected from Face Control, but I was anticipating this release based on the strength of ‘I’m Confused‘, the first (and at the time only) song I’d ever heard from the group.

It took me a few run-throughs for this album to sink in for me. On the surface it’s a trippy dance party, and while there are trippy AND dancy tracks, there’s much more to it than that. The opening track ‘Legal Tender’ begins oddly, with seemingly industrial-sounding instruments clanking, but builds up to a smokey electronic tune. By the time the song breaks open into a sunnier vibe, there is less than a minute left, as it leads right into another very electro-pop tune called ‘Evangeline’. ‘Evangeline’ sticks with the midtempo pace of the previous song, and throws in some purposely-sloppy guitar riffs to go with the water drop synth sounds. Something about this one doesn’t totally grab me, although the song title itself invokes images for me of Evangeline Lilly of LOST, so I’m torn.

‘Talking Hotel Arbat Blues’ has a structure similar to classic punk rock, and I bet it would be a riot to hear live, despite getting the feeling that singer Dan Hoeckner is holding back on his vocals for some reason. I can’t help but imagine what someone with a gruffier singing voice would sound like over this music, but it’s still one of my favorites on the album.

The most satisfying song on this record is ‘All We Want, Baby is Everything’, and as soon as it begins, it’s so clear that it’s as good as the album is going to get, because it’s that exceptional. The twangy melody and fast-paced drum machine beat will hook you in immediately, and it’s basically the perfect song to segue into the end credits of a buddy comedy with. I would suggest anyone on the fence about this album listen to this song, and the excellent ‘I’m Confused‘ first, and then work dive into the rest.

The rest isn’t too shabby either, though: the very brief  ‘(White City)’ has a frosty chiptune ambience that leaves you wanting an extended version, and ‘Nyet Spasiba’ is another whirlwind of a song, like ‘All We Want’, but colder and more noticably relient on the groups’ electronic instruments. ‘Thy Will Be Done’ sounds vintage Bowie with some of my favorite lyrics on the album:

Late at night when the party’s over
we swim through the city like fish
and wait for the sun

Only a handful of songs didn’t quite reach me like the others: along with the aforementioned ‘Evangeline’, ‘Officer of Hearts’ kind of sludges along, and the instrumental track ‘(Passport Kontrol)’ sounds like it belongs on the score of a computer game from 1996. Other than those, we have an album that’s more solid than I expected, with a totally 80s (in a good way) album closer in ‘Radio Kaliningrad’.

Face Control is well worth your time, and can almost be played front to back at a party without sparking groans from your guests. But like I said in the opening paragraph, it is tough for me to latch onto new bands, and the lasting effect the Handsome Furs will have on my musical taste remains to be seen. For the here and now though, they have some serious rotation space on my iPod playlists, which is pretty good for a group that I was only introduced to less than two months ago.

Album: Face Control
Handsome Furs
Release Date:
March 10, 2009
Sub Pop Records
‘Talking Hotel Arbat Blues’, ‘All We Want, Baby, Is Everything’, ‘I’m Confused‘,  ‘(White City)’, ‘Thy Will Be Done’


1 Comment »

  1. […] I’m Confused Artist: Handsome Furs Album: Face Control Label: Sub Pop Records Notes: none Analysis: ‘I’m Confused’ is one of those songs […]

    Pingback by New Music: Handsome Furs, I’m Confused « The New Classics — April 8, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

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