Rooms Filled With Light
Mar 20, 2012 Web Exclusive
It's understandable that some listeners might have initially passed on Fanfarlo as being something of an Arcade Fire lite, with their debut record, Reservoir, which showcased a similar stock of propulsive, catchy chamber pop. At a time when Win Butler and crew are the reigning kings of the indie rock mountain, the comparisons between these two are increasingly difficult to put out of mind; organs, violins, glockenspiels and other complex instrumentation become accoutrement for a male/female split of vocals. In Rooms Filled With Light, Fanfarlo still don't manage to pull off the majestic, emotional sweep of their Canadian counterparts' best songs—to be fair, few other current groups do—but it does show the British troupe taking significant steps outside their previous parameters and experimenting with a wider variety of musical approaches.
Plugging in may be the biggest change they've made since Reservoir; samplers have materialized in some songs, and warbling synths have snuck their way into prominent positions in others. This electronic injection is most noticeable in "Shiny Things," which opens with Simon Balthazar's smooth baritone croon over a moody wash of synthesizer, which suddenly bubbles over into a brighter, sunnier rock song. Elsewhere, the rippling, syncopated bassline of "Lens Life" gives it an unexpected dance-pop vibe. Songs such as these stand in contrast with the instrumental-only "Everything Turns," an attractive, mostly acoustic piece with minimal digital effects. It should be stressed that Fanfarlo never sound purposefully derivative of other acts, but as much as they've expanded their musical borders beyond what they displayed on their first record, the spectre of that Montréal indie rock juggernaut still looms over each complex, baroque number. However, if they're going to draw comparisons to another group, they could do far, far worse than one of this era's best. (www.fanfarlo.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 5/10