Posted on June 1st, 2011 (1:00 pm) by Bradley Hartsell

FM Belfast occupy a very distinct portion of indie’s stratosphere. It’s below the elite group, where the Arcade Fires, The Nationals, the Deerhunters, or the Animal Collectives reside, boasting the most innovative sounds in current music. There’s a class below those giants, though, for the litany of bands who offer interesting, defined sounds, though perhaps without the overarching ambition or pinpoint craftwork of upper tier bands. I won’t dare claim FM Belfast is the best secret out there, but I will say I’m awfully refreshed to hear a band own a sound and make extremely good on it throughout the course of a record.

The Icelandic foursome is pretty bare-bones in terms of musical identity. They play a loose brand of electro-pop dance music. That may already pique your interest or that term may not mean shit to you. The point for FMB is not necessarily the genre. To me, they’re like a really good TV show. Does Mad Men have a description that jumps off the page? "1960s advertising executives do stuff.... and get accounts... and go through stuff... with their family. Affairs. Scotch. Feminism?" No, it kind of sounds boring, to be honest. The characters totally sell the show, though, and the plot is just a device to allow all of these awesome characters to exist. But I digress; with FMB, it’s the voices that make the show work. Electronic drums, synth melodies, fiery tempos—we’ve done this dance a time or a thousand. But that's all moot in relation to the broader scope of what FMB does so well.

Honestly, (I mean this the nicest way possible) most of the voiceless instrumentation of this album could be the endless soundtrack to some Flash computer game where you ride skateboards over garbage cans. That’s how basic most of the music is. Doesn’t matter. The melodies are so sugary and idiosyncratic, shifting between male and female voices seamlessly that it revels in its simplicity. Melodically, think along the lines of Architecture in Helsinki or The Unicorns, where the mantra is melodic blitzkrieg—voices careening hooks from every angle imaginable.

“Stripes” is a bit of a false teaser, as it’s almost exclusively an electro-soul song. It’s an extremely good song, don’t get me wrong, but there’s not a trace of soul for the rest of the album. To get the bad out of the way, “Noise” is the only misstep on the album, where the abrasive rhythm is too much of a contrast from the hazy female melody. Now, to the good part…

There are two songs that are far and away the best songs here, and I would say, as good as songs as you’ll hear for a while: “Vertigo” and “Happy Winter”. In both cases, these songs find FMB trying their hand at dance-ballads, where they aim with noted sophistication. “Vertigo” features an awesome repeat-repeat-repeat rapid-fire melody that ends with an elongated payoff. The chorus explodes with a trumpet supplementing the melody, showing off more polish than anywhere else on Don’t Want to Sleep. “Happy Winter” is the ultimate gem here. It’s legitimately beautiful. It’s so, so simple—a steady quick rhythm and a deep toned major-minor synth progression. The melody that ensues is pure sweetness. It’s catchy as fuck, but it’s more than a fun whatever. It feels powerful, mainly thanks to the classic major-minor technique, and it’s so sweet due to the tradeoff and harmonizing between the male and female voices. There’s a nice touch near the end where the rhythm starts tripling like a machine gun, but it completely flows and adds that extra flare for the resolution. It’s impossible to dislike “Happy Winter” and I’ll put it up with any other transcendent song I’ve heard in 2011.

I’m waffling between lament and diligent acceptance. On one hand, what if FM Belfast had made a whole album of “Happy Winters”? I’d probably get fired for handing out our first 100 score ever. On the other, I do feel that “Happy Winters” pulls a lot of familiar strings for one grand hurrah. Despite basic-as-shit arrangements, FMB manage to incorporate different moods throughout Don't Want to Sleep, so as to not bog themselves down with one constant sugar-rush mindset. Don’t Want to Sleep is loaded with memorable hooks (including the chorus from the nearly titular “I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep Either”), anchored by two flawless songs. FM Belfast have crafted an album I defy anyone to not like.

Track List:
1. Stripes
2. American
3. Believe
4. Mondays
5. We Fall
6. Noise
7. I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep Either
8. Vertigo
9. In Line
10. New Year
11. Happy Winter

FM Belfast: Don't Want to Sleep
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

83 / 100
© Inyourspeakers Media LLC