Once upon a time I had a special friend named Tate. Tate and I shared many pleasures, music being one of the most enduring and enlightening.
His taste in music was a most eclectic mix of everything from bubblegum-pop to existentialist jazz, and he loved sharing it all with me. It was Tate who originally introduced me to A Fine Frenzy, and although my relationship with Tate was all too fleeting, my relationship, my adoration of A Fine Frenzy has never diminished. (A Fine Frenzy is the professional moniker of the very talented Alison Sudol and not actually an entire band.)
Her début album, One Cell In The Sea, was my top Album of the Year for 2007 and I even occasionally mention her songs in my Songs That Touch My Soul series. One Cell has become an integral component in the soundtrack of my life over the past three years. And while I have waited patiently for her to release a follow-up album, I never wearied of One Cell, so entirely enchanted have I been.
I even shared my passion with a select few, including BC’s own illustrious and oh-so-discerning co-under-assistant music editor Josh Hathaway, thereby spreading my mania. And now, finally, A Fine Frenzy is releasing a sophomore album, Bomb In A Birdcage. After so much patient pining, the question was always going to be, “Would I love the second album as much as the first?” The not-so-simple answer is yes and no.
One Cell is both fresh and nostalgic. An atmospheric album with alt-folk sensibilities. A magnificent alternative singer-songwriter concoction replete with haunting melodies, nearly nude piano, with very little competing instrumentation, and raw, vulnerable lyrics. Captivating, hypnotic, lush, but still accessible to those of a mainstream musical ear.
Bomb In A Birdcage is closer to mainstream pop, with less of the singer-songwriter feel and more synthy sounds and bouncier beats. A Fine Frenzy’s second album isn’t a huge change of direction but more an evolution of sound. More textures, bigger sounds, more diverse instrumentation but still lush, bewitching and atmospheric – just that it’s a different atmosphere.
It begins with the happy-clapping “What I Wouldn’t Do”. This felicitous track has a indefinable quality best described as tropical-island-feel about it, complete with whistling and the lyric from which the album derives its name. “It was now and we were both in the same place/ didn’t know how to say the words/ With my heart ticking like a bomb in a birdcage/ I left before someone got hurt”. The jaunty exuberance will quickly have you whistling along, and it sets the tone of this more blithe sounding album.
“Electric Twist” is another intoxicating and delightful track, and the first Frenzy song with electric guitar. Quiet a shock to the system if you’re used to her usual acoustic sound. However it is a great track and the electric sounds aren’t overwhelming, and it still manages to hold on to the singer-songwriter sensibilities. It leads into the album’s first single “Blow Away” another electric guitar infused, synthy rapturous song.
Other songs of note include “Elements” and “Bird of the Summer” both are reminiscent of her first album. Warm, rich, languishing music accompanied by smooth, gauzy vocals of the alt.singer-songwriter variety. “Stood Up”, my favorite song on the album, a prog-rock-esque track that is embellished with lush, echoy guitar, mellifluous tinkly synth and ethereal-rock vocals.
I would strongly recommend this album to anyone, whether you are a current fan or new to A Fine Frenzy. If you loved One Cell you get to see a young talent who is yet to reach her pinnacle, and is just beginning to spread her artistic wings. Let it grow on you and you’ll love Bomb In A Birdcage as much as One Cell, I promise. And if you’re new to the incorporeal love of A Fine Frenzy then Bomb In A Birdcage is a good place to start your love affair.