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The Fresh & Onlys

Play it Strange

In the Red

Oct 29, 2010 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

This has been a banner year for San Francisco’s Fresh and Onlys: a U.K. tour with Deerhunter, an invitation (via Matt Groening) to play All Tomorrow’s Parties, festivals in New York and Big Sur, and a rapid succession of 7” records that have been selling out as fast as labels can release them. Ending the year with Play it Strange and a November tour with Clinic puts a fine feather on their 2010 hat.

Their first album recorded outside their familiar home studio, the band worked with Tim Green at Louder Studios to churn out Play it Strange in one week. The work and forethought they put into creating the album is apparent from the opening song. “Summer of Love” is hazy, psych pop featuring a laid back drumbeat, plinking marimba, and jangly guitar. Tim Cohen’s semi-buried vocals and lyrical delivery are coy and smothered in romanticism. “Plague of Frogs” and “Be My Hooker” both employ jangly Byrds guitar phrasing, while “All Shook Up” moves the propulsion to a floor tom-led drumbeat and is one of the more driving songs on the album. The eight-minute “Tropical Island Suite” is really a three-minute rocker with a long tail. Necessary? Probably not, but the band gets to add some nice texture to the album with the dreamy five-minute outro.

While Play it Strange is a solid album worthy of many repeat listens, the second track “Waterfall” tends to overshadow the rest of the album. The single is a perfect pop song rubbed down with a gorgeous sheen of ‘60s pyschedelia. Cohen sings with sublimely mournful detachment while shambling guitars and tambourine push the song forward. A terrifically understated guitar solo and ghostly backing vocals add to the effect making this one of the best songs of 2010. (

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