Sunday, December 1, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Faux Fir - Fashionable Life

In many ways, Fashionable Life, the debut full-length from Milwaukee synthpop group Faux Fir, probably wouldn't exist were it not for the for the Internet. To begin with, the band got its start when Adam Bartell and Ryan Rupprecht, who had both recently relocated to Milwaukee, found each other on Craigslist and, after a string of well-received splits and EPs, found themselves working on their first proper album via email and Instant Messenger, passing files between the core of the band in Milwaukee, Bartell, who'd since returned to Portland, and producer Ryan Weber, now living 8,000 miles away in Kenya.

Fashionable Life, however, doesn't suffer for the physical distance between its makers, sounding conceptually well thought out and cohesive over the course of its roughly 40 minute runtime. That's not to imply that the record is lacking in dynamics, in fact it lands on a quite lively commingling of modern dance pop à la Hot Chip, classic synthpop tropes and a dose of the spritely electronic psychedelia of Of Montreal. The sound comes together best on a handful of standout tracks, like the bouncy lead-off single "Pleasure Prose" or the dreamy "The Wingdings", but it's charmingly bright and catchy throughout.

The mix, while appropriately clean and sparkling energetic, could use some more oomph in the low end, an imbalance which, along with Rupprecht's twangy vocals, can make some passages feel shrill, but, all things considered, Fashionable Life, accessible as it is, should appeal to a broad cross section of listeners and deserves some attention from local radio ("Pizza Hut" seems like a song 88.9 should be beating into the ground). Yet while there's nothing particularly radical or groundbreaking included here, it's an assured, ingratiating release, one which, like the band, owes an unspoken debt to the World Wide Web. 

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