Ian Sinclair reviews Fazerdaze, Fleet Foxes and Soley .
Soley Endless Summer (Morr Music) 3 stars ACCORDING to the 30-year-old Icelandic singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Soley Stefansdottir, her third album came out of a note she wrote to herself when she woke up in the middle of the night. “Write about hope and spring,” it said. She then bought a grand piano, painted her studio yellow and purple and started work on the record. Influenced by the long Icelandic winters, the piano-led songs create a warm, often delicate atmosphere with their dreamlike instrumentation, including restrained orchestral sweeps and swoons. The wonderful weirdness of fellow nationals Sigur Ros and Bjork seem to be key touchstones, as does the fantastical voice of US singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom on songs like opener Ia, named after Soley’s young daughter. Though somewhat slight at around 30 minutes long, it’s an impressive album of rebirth and nourishment of the soul.
Fleet Foxes Crack-Up (Nonesuch Records) 4 stars
SIX years since 2011’s Helplessness Blues, the Fleet Foxes’ third long player is a sprawling, experimental masterpiece. Taking its name from an F Scott Fitzgerald essay, Crack-Up is a concept album of sorts, with the Seattle-based five-piece subtly expanding their trademark baroque indie rock sound. Piano and folky acoustic guitar are overlaid with horns, harpsichord, birdsong, waves lapping against the shoreline, footsteps and a choir singing their breakthrough 2008 hit White Winter Hymnal. Recent interviews with frontman and songwriter Robin Pecknold — who took time out to attend Columbia University — suggest that a heavy dose of existential angst informed the songs, though the often disjointed instrumentation makes comprehension of Pecknold’s soaring vocals a challenge. With the album cover conveying a sense of a serious band with very serious pretensions, Crack-Up is an enticing record of hidden depths and beauty, full of big musical and lyrical ideas.
Fazerdaze Morningside (Flying Nun Records) 4 stars
NAMED after the Auckland suburb that Fazerdaze —New Zealand’s Amelia Murray — now calls home, Morningside is a brilliant debut album of woozy dream pop. Layering synths, electronic drums and shimmering ’80s indie-style guitar, the record is an enviable mix of familiar sounds and modern freshness. 24-year-old Murray wrote, recorded and produced all the songs, from the insomnia troubles of opener Last to Sleep to the pulsing single Lucky Girl, which sounds a lot like Jenny Lewis’s side project Nice As Fuck, and the crickets-sampling sun-dappled closer Bedroom Talks. The fuzzy Misread and Friends borrow the loud-quiet-loud song structure of indie-rock gods The Pixies, while Jennifer is a slower, acoustic guitar-led song about teenage friends. Full of warm, breezy melodies and Murray’s soft vocals, it’s a dazzling set from a supremely talented artist. The perfect album for long summer days.