Review Summary: Trading ostentation for pure elegance.
Accompanying audiobooks. Converted sci-fi screenplays. Massive double concept-albums. If ever there was a poster child for pretense, Falling Up would be Little Mikey, on the front of your cereal box, displayed next a bowl sloshing with a vulgar accumulation of random literary devices. Despite this, what Falling Up most certainly can't be accused of is selling out
; the now-synth/progressive/indie/experimental band has trudged along with quite modest success for the past six years, despite starting out as a talented and capable CCM alternative hard rock outfit. Most original fans stopped caring after 2009's Fangs!
spun in their CD players a couple of times - they might be less surprised to learn that Falling Up is finally calling it quits in late 2015 as they would be to learn that Falling Up is still around at all.
But after years of spacemen shooting silver arrows at the moon, children playing dangerous games in demon-possessed gymnasiums, and gentle crooning on earth-ward space-faring vessels, Falling Up has had plenty of time to catch up to their own pretension. The result? One final, crowd-funded effort stripping back the hallucinogenic imagery and supposed self-importance and crafting a genuinely masterful concept album. Here, the lyrics are actually intelligent,
instead of merely intelligence misappropriated.
By coming down from the clouds and landing on a more solid story about a young girl and her family undergoing fantastical yet relatable hardships in an old, decrepit house, Falling Up has finally set the backdrop for the musical experience they have always been capable of delivering.
Yes, I said the conceptual lyricism presented here is a backdrop. If the lack of a title did not already make it obvious, this album is less about listening to Jessy Ribordy, boyish, energetic, and eclectic frontman and wanna-be sci-fi indie director and author, and more about listening to Falling Up, the talented alternative rock band. Musically, Falling Up
has much in common with 2013's Hours
, meaning that the listener is in for plenty of stirring vocal melodies, unusual song structures, and dynamic shifts. Unlike that album, however, the sounds are far more organic, with layers upon layers of delicate electric guitar, acoustic guitar finger-picking, gentle piano, and highly technical drumming. Songs tend to run on the long side, with several reaching six minutes or longer - but with constantly-changing structures, Falling Up manages to keep the entire length of each song (and, consequently, the whole album) interesting. By contrast, the couple of sub-four-minute tracks feel positively short
. Surpassing the 60-minute mark, Falling Up
narrowly avoids dragging on, but manages to hit that magical sweet spot that neither leaves the listener wanting more nor reaching for the "skip" key.
Whether it's the constant dynamism of "Flora," the gentle melodies of "Typhoon," or the cryptic musings of "The Insect," or the aggressive urgency of "Rangers," or the circular dissonance of closer "Flares," Falling Up
constantly pushes, pulls, moves, shifts, ebbs, flows, breaks, connects, and transitions in a way that leaves the whole feeling consistent without seeming same-y. Still, this is not the kind of accessible album that allows a few single tracks to be pulled easily into a playlist. It's also, like Hours
before it, not the kind of album that sits on repeat in the car for the daily commute every morning. It's the kind of album that coerces you to sit and listen;
to put the phone down and turn off the television and log off the computer and just enjoy.
It's one of those rare gems that's immediately euphonic without catering to lowest-common-denominator tastes. It's a marriage of the group's more youthful sensibilities from Crashings-
and Dawn Escapes-
era Falling Up to their more experimental architecture from Your Sparkling Death Cometh
If you're going to go out, this is how you go out. There's a sense of scale, of maturity, of depth, of musicality, of progression, of growth, of ambition, of accomplishment, and of pure, unadulterated elegance
here that far supersedes the "look what we can do" ostentation of all previous efforts. This may be the end of a much longer musical journey for Falling Up, but it's the self-titled destination you're bound to remember.