Review Summary: Rather beautiful when it stays calm and holds onto self-possession.
Fallulah is basically the lovechild of Florence and the Machine and Marina and the Diamonds. Where Florence Welch delivers melodies with melancholic power and somber cadence, Fallulah's voice is light and upbeat, making the songs she sings artfully rousing rather than emotionally draining; the quirky quality blanketing her voice keeps it from traveling toward unencumbered dramatics. Therefore, even though the vocal tones of the two women are eerily similar, Fallulah's distinct delivery makes them definitively separate in character. Florence and the Machine comes across as perpetually vulnerable and shaky compared to Fallulah who performs akin to Marina and the Diamonds; weak moments often cloaked with seeming security and strength. Thus, Fallulah falls somewhere between the sentimentality of Florence and the Machine and the electric personality of Marina and the Diamonds. All the same it is apparent she is still fleshing out who she is. The aforementioned artists have developed unique charm and charisma; Fallulah however is not yet fully-formed in The Black Cat Neighborhood
Despite similarities to comparable artists who employ similar expression, the album is unique, interweaving an interesting and provocative folkiness through it. Taking inspiration from her Romanian roots, Fallulah interlaces traditional Balkan elements composed of intricate melodies and fast rhythms into many songs. The album kicks off with “Only Human,” opening in cinematic style before moving into the cyclical heavy drums which accompany increasing layers of sounds and instruments as the song continues. "Only Human" aptly represents the overall sound that defines the rest of the album. Fallulah uses strong, big sounds simultaneously; sometimes the amalgamation of sounds works to the album's advantage but frequently they become hectic. The second track, “Hey You,” gets away from her; the good moments muddied by the uncoordinated transitions from the verses to the chorus. She is best when she strips down the instrumentation which is shown nicely in “Use It For Good.” Without the chaotic atmosphere surrounding the vocals, we can fully experience her excellent voice, which is powerful but effortless and bluesy. Similarly “Out Of It,” which gives serious Florence and the Machine vibes, succeeds because she showcases what her voice can do and accordingly builds the percussion to match alongside it as the song reaches it climax at the end. Title track, “The Black Cat Neighborhood,” features an austerely intense and quick clapping rhythm with effective sub-bass and drum accents in addition to interspersed cooing on Fallulah's part, creating an intriguing listen even if slightly odd.
The good moments, vocally and instrumentally, are very good. Fallulah's voice can be haunting when she wants it to be and she has superb control over what she does with it. It is powerful but breathy which reigns it from becoming overly abrasive or harsh which is expressed especially nicely in “Give Us A Little Love.” Similarly, the percussion that drives nearly all the songs on the album is varied but consistent. However, when she goes all out with the instrumentation and vocals, sometimes the songs lose the qualities that made them good as well as relevancy in the framework of the album particularly in closer “New York, Your My Concrete Lover,” which is monotonous and too uptempo and fast-paced compared to the other songs on the album. Still, The Black Cat Neighborhood
shows plenty of potential and Fallulah has an interesting and skilled voice which no doubt will help her in figuring out what type of music and atmosphere works for her in future releases.
Recommended Tracks: Hold Your Horses, Out Of It, Give Us A Little Love