I hate to think that music by itself has become so worthless that giving it away for free is the only way to get it into the hands of fans. Sure, the first few experiments worked well, but Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are hardly one-hit wonders or bottom-tiered acts.
I've seen many no-name (at least to my knowledge) bands try similar endeavors (mainly as free downloads), and of course I downloaded without hesitation. But as soon as the tracks were uploaded to my iTunes library I had already forgotten about them.
Maybe free music is no longer a novelty worthy of press, which is possibly a reason why London-based quintet Fanfarlo spiced up their offer for their self-titled debut album by including four exclusive bonus tracks all for the low, low price of one dollar. The catch? The deal was for a limited time (I'm suddenly craving a trip to Burger King) and today is way past the July 4, 2009 deadline.
For those that splurged on the internet-only deal (you can only get the self-released LP at Fanfarlo's homepage), they were treated with a surprisingly enjoyable album full of indie goodness that only an abundance (although not an overabundance) of instruments (keyboard, violin, cello, mandolin, trumpet, and more) could produce.
Led by frontman Simon Balthazar, Fanfarlo (which also includes Cathy Lucas, Justin Finch, Amos Memon, and Leon Beckenham) perform stripped down chamber pop that flows as quietly and naturally as a stream. No, the ballads aren't tearjerkers and the mellow pieces aren't snooze fests, but there are songs of lost love ("If It Is Growing"), social disharmony (), and possibly a retelling of an historical event ("Ghosts").
You can blame the range of assorted themes on Balthazar's writing skills, where he explains "I always try to write accessible lyrics that people will get and understand, but it always ends up impenetrable, then I attempt to write deep, serious and difficult music, and somehow it keeps coming out as pop" (press release).
That professed lack of writing talent isn't so much a shortcoming and is rather refreshing. As wrong as I could be in interpreting the music, I can't help but be reminded of God in the uplifting opener "I'm A Pilot" or think about how much freedom that democracy affords us in "Comets." Fortunately I don't mind repeating Fanfarlo's debut LP to understand other interpretations.