Review Summary: Freelance Whales make for fantastic freelance agents.
The sun is setting. In the Queens borough of New York City, a humble band can be heard playing in café shops that are dotted within the city’s limits. The band is unsigned, relatively unknown, and quite young as the members of the band had just met in late 2008; yet here they are, playing from venue to venue and they have already created their very own debut album. The music they play is nearly an exact replica of their influences, drawing primarily from the indie folk style of Sufjan Steven’s Illinois
album and the soothing soft-spoken style of Ben Gibbard in his The Postal Service project. Freelance Whales' Weathervanes
is the creation of an unknown band that deserves to be heard and possibly accessed with the most promising of 2009’s music.
Freelance Whales makes use of what the band has quite well: they incorporate various loops, banjos, acoustics, bells, and even whistles throughout the album. It’s surprising that this is the band’s first album in truth as they sound quite skilled at what they do. “Hannah” and “Location” greet listeners earlier on, offering some of the album’s strongest hooks in the conversational style of Judah Dadone's delivery that is coupled with the band's soothing folk arrangements. Three interludes are spaced throughout the album- one seems to follow after every two songs -and these act as a way to connect and coordinate everything in a concise manner. Individually, these tracks amount to no more than mere beeps or bells, but in context of the album, they add to the overall experience. The ten proper tracks here each contain their definable moments and distinctive natures, only growing stronger with repeated listens. On “Staring”, the band stretch the pop aspect of their sound, featuring a synth and upbeat mood that could very well rival the sunny-eyed pop punk bands of today. Elsewhere, “Broken Horse” is a melodramatic lyrical piece with down-scaled instrumentation and contains a mood that happens to be on the opposite side of the spectrum of the aforementioned track. This brings me to another positive about this album: Weathervanes
accomplishes the inclusion of a variety of moods and feelings without coming across as too spontaneous or divided during the process.
Sufjan Stevens used to be considered a fairly awful singer; that is, before he received much needed vocal work. This is not the case with the band’s vocalist as Judah Dadone can best be described as a cross between the aforementioned and The Format’s own, Nate Ruess. His tone is calming and soothing, perfectly accentuating the music that the band creates. The timbre of his voice bares the likable quality of remaining and encircling around a listener’s head, even for periods of time that follow long after listens. As he sings the chorus hook of “Hannah”: ”Hannah takes the stairs, Cause she can't tell that, it’s a winding spiral case, Is she right side up, Or upside-down?”, the listener can’t help but smile and realize that this song may remain with them indefinitely. Moments and lines like these dot the album and give it an addictive and pleasing quality that continues to draw the listener back for repeated listens. Along with Mr. Dadone's vocals, the band makes use of a backing style of singers that might brings to mind those featured in Sufjan Stevens own song, “Chicago.” Most of the harmonies and choruses on the album contain the work of these backing vocals, and some of the album’s best moments are when these voices rise to the forefront.“Hannah”, the climatic ending of “Ghosting”, and “Generator ^ Second Floor” all display this beautifully harmonized and soothing effect, and as such, add to the reason why these tracks are highlights.
The fact that this is an excellent debut album can’t escape the fact that the Freelance Whales all but rip-off their respective influences. The hybrid is extremely well-done and promising, but originality and overall relevance do happen to take a backseat. That being said, Weathervane
is everything I have said so far: the production, especially given the fact that this is an unsigned band, is crystal clear and magical, and the hooks to be found here represent some of indie pop’s best. Hopefully by this time next year, the band will have caught on and garnered a healthy amount attention as they surely deserve it. As 2009 is coming to a close with a year filled with promising starts and continued quality releases, Freelance Whales are one of the year’s most promising bands and could very well have a very pleasant future ahead of them.