Friday, October 5, 2012

Long Slow Dance - The Fresh & Onlys

Long Slow Dance

The Fresh & Onlys
Mexican Summer Records.

SCQ Rating: 83%

The Fresh & Onlys have carried a sterling reputation for years now, one cemented by word of mouth and critical praise instead of magazine covers and sold-out performances at Radio City Music Hall. While less opportunistic in terms of perks, The Fresh & Onlys’ status is weighed in a different sort of gold – one common among career-artists and those thriving by the beat of their own drum. Likewise, Long Slow Dance takes its time with a collection of rock songs that gradually unveils a timeless heart beneath its understated surface.

These layers surprise because Long Slow Dance doesn’t initially sound like it has much to hide. Songs like “Executioner’s Song” and the title track prove instantly likeable, both manning a shuffling jangle-rock pulse through melancholic guitar hues. Basing an entire full-length on the merits of such traditional instrumentation qualifies as risqué by 2012’s indie standards but what sounds half-hearted gathers steam on account of subtle choices that render the arrangements as classic as vocalist Tim Cohen’s songwriting. The surf-tinged jam coinciding with “No Regard”, that lone synth streaking through “Fire Alarm”, the faint horn section backing “Executioner’s Song”; these flourishes have to stand their own amidst a restraint that's rather bold for a band operating in the same arena as, say, Ariel Pink.

The band’s well-known love of psychedelia still permeates the disc but intimately; with the exception of “Foolish Person”, it isn’t trying to call the shots. And by imbedding that experimentation lovingly into the corners of Long Slow Dance, The Fresh & Onlys have reached a new plateau. 

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