Foreign Slippers say Farewell To The Old Ghosts
- By Nick Hagan -
- Jun 27, 2012
Reviewing records on a fairly regular basis can be a merry-go-round at times. After you've been doing it for a while, you inevitably start to draw lines and brackets around the endless stream of sounds you have to process – the hip new indie band, the electro freaks, the enigmatic chanteuse.
It's bands like Foreign Slippers that kick all that in the teeth, raze all your pathetic little structures to the ground and remind you why you got into reviewing in the first place.
Not because the music created by 'ruling deity' Gabi Froden and co necessarily breaks any new ground, but because what they commit to record is so completely, emphatically pure. As pure as the driven snow, as pure as the best shag you've had in your life…it's musical smack, catnip for your weary ear canal, tiger balm for your tired soul, soothing and burning it all at once.
Too much, right? Au contraire – it's not enough. The purity of 'Farewell to the Old Ghosts' resounds in its every aspect, right down to the hand-drawn/origami sleeve that houses this beautiful, beautiful work of art.
If you're looking for those unavoidable touchstones, I'll throw you a bone – we're in the realm of Arcade Fire, Emmy The Great, Devotchka, Belle And Sebastian and plenty more touchy-feely, multi-instrumental luvvies. Lyrically, it's absolutely breathtaking. A rare sort of power flows through Froden's metaphors, which she juxtaposes with simple, raw honesty. Grand motifs flourish and rot, collapsing in on themselves before reappearing.
Take 'Island', which opens with the suggestion you 'Take off your clothes/And swim with me/ I don't care about the truth/Or some divine destiny'. It's that strangest of things – a pure idea, uncompromised by any clutter, transcribed directly into the music. 'Farewell To The Old Ghosts' is redolent with moments like this, and it leaves you reeling.
From the sunny optimism of 'It All Starts Now' to the Nick Cave-esque gothic lurch of 'Dead Inside' (complete with some fantastic Addams Family backing vocals), a whole gamut of emotions and sensations are plumbed, and with a musical deftness of touch to make Sigur Ros cry. The album certainly has a twee veneer, but is shot through with an irresistible darkness. Tales of bad deeds, wild abandon and searing regret abound. It provides enough of a contrast to the album's elegantly-wrought beauty to give it a fairly unique character – it's a lush, uneasy curio, a bittersweet kaleidoscope.
'Throw The Lot In' builds a classic melody into a layered, spiralling tower of sumptuous harmonies, Gabi Froden's searching vibrato recalling the sprit of Edith Piaf. 'If you had another chance/Would you take it?' she asks. You won't want it to end.
A few criticisms; some ideas aren't quite developed to their full capacity, as with the anticlimax that closes the otherwise wonderful 'The Two People In You'. By the same token, 'Farewell…' lacks a definite centrepiece overall – it could use a really shameless show-stopper for ballast. Elsewhere it occasionally lapses into banality, as with 'Avalanche's vanilla chorus, and ends awkwardly with 'When You Feel The Fear'.
But, like a half-remembered love affair, all mistakes seem inconsequential in the grand sweep of the album's life cycle. Majestic, passionate and beguiling, Foreign Slippers have built a monument to artistic integrity that will inspire reviewers and musicians alike.
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