The Fresh & Onlys: House of Spirits (Mexican Summer) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Fresh & Onlys

House of Spirits

Mexican Summer

Jun 10, 2014 The Fresh & Onlys Bookmark and Share

Up to this point, just about every new release from The Fresh & Onlys has offered us the singularly bittersweet pleasure of greeting new, unexpected sonic gestures while melancholically waving goodbye to certain tics we’ve grown fond of. It was a peculiarly rewarding give-and-take, with each successive album and EP betraying glimmers of The Onlys’ prior recorded lives, yet bravely looking onward.

Perhaps it’s this very pattern that makes their fifth full-length, House of Spirits, feel like such a uniquely disappointing detour. This may be the first release from the San Francisco garage-pop stalwarts that leaves us anxious for Tim Cohen and company to drop their current guise and refresh their outlook ASAP. Written during a sojourn in the deserts of Arizona, it has a distinctly “built from the ground up” feel, as if The Onlys were intent on stripping their sound down to something elemental, then reconstructing it completely. The problem is, this kind of major overhaul requires real vision, something that the sparse, dirge-heavy House of Spirits lacks.

The album isn’t without highlights; “Bells of Paonia,” propelled by a rippling static river of quietly controlled feedback, is favorably reminiscent of the My Bloody Valentine classic “Sometimes.” Elsewhere, “Animal of One” epitomizes the sound of classic Fresh & Onlys ballads, replete with dazed guitar twang, reverbed vocals that pulsate with echo chamber loneliness and the psychedelic perspective shifts of its lyrics. It’s no “Waterfall” (still the band’s best moment on record), but then it doesn’t really need to be in order to stand out here. Horns, synths, and a litany of mischievous vocal effects are employed throughout. Echo & the Bunnymen and The Church are conjured. It’s all moodily pleasant but never immersive. House of Spirits is a slow-burner that ultimately chokes on the ashes of its own grayscale lethargy. (

Author rating: 5.5/10

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