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Posted on October 6th, 2011 (12:48 pm) by Joseph Bogen

On the surface, Megafaun’s latest self-titled album appears to be their most straight-forward album yet. That certainly seems to be the consensus that’s emerging. It’s not entirely wrong. “Get Right” is the only track on here that stretches any distance beyond a standard 3-4 minute running time, and instead of devolving into noise like previous epics “Guns” and “Where We Belong”, it just carries a gorgeous melody for its entire eight minutes. But where Megafaun have dialed back their noisy and idiosyncrasies, they’ve clearly brought their songwriting and musicianship to a higher level. The result is a more inviting listening experience, but also an album that challenges its listeners in all the right ways and shows a higher level of songcraft.

The album opens with “Real Slow” a country song so relaxed and confident it sounds like it would fit on a Neil Young album from the '70s. With animal noises, electronic beats and chanted vocals, “These Words” sounds more like the Megafaun we’ve grown used to, but when the song comes together, it’s clearly more realized than most of their previous work. And they’re followed by “Get Right”, probably the best melody this band has created yet. It’s easy to see why they wanted to play it for eight minutes.

On their latest, Megafaun also display an ability to vary their approach more successfully. While “Real Slow” and “Get Right” are strong electric rock songs, “Hope You Now” is a beautiful song centered around piano and a male-female duet. But as much as these tracks differ, they don’t sound out of place next to each other. The instrumental “Isadora” starts off sounding a bit out of place with its burst of horns, but by the time the strings come in, it seems to fit perfectly even when followed by the gentle pop song, “Secret Friend”. More importantly, “Isadora” sounds less like filler than the group’s previous instrumentals

Unfortunately, this album does not end as strongly as it started. Few of the tracks in the album’s second half are as memorable or captivating as the ones that opened. There’s a middle stretch of quieter songs weighing the albums down. “Scorned” has a nice simmering intensity to it, but following “Kill the Horns”, an even quieter song that totally fails to connect, “Scorned” has an uphill climb for my attention. It’s followed by two quieter, “Serene Return”, a strange short instrumental and “You are the Light”, a nice relaxed country song that would be more welcome if something with more energy had preceded it. I actually saw the group just this Saturday night, and sadly their sets seem to suffer from the same problem.

Even with the album’s weaknesses, it’s still one of the better albums of the year, and it does especially favorably when compared to this year’s releases from Akron/Family and Wilco. Back in 2007 and 2008, Megafaun toured with and opened for and performed with Akron/Family, and at the time I thought of them as little more than a good opener/solid backing musicians. But Megafaun have benefited from an increased attention to song craft while their former touring partners have been suffering from new material that just leaves audience members wishing they would play “Ed is a Portal” again. I just want to point out that a lot of the songs on this album would have fit right in on a Wilco album, but they would have stood out because the songwriting is so clearly superior. Megafaun may still have some distance to go before making a perfect album, but they’re definitely getting closer.

Track List

1. Real Slow
2. These Words
3. Get Right
4. Hope You Know
5. Isadora
6. Second Friend
7. Resurrection
8. Kill the Horns
9. Scorned
10. Serene Return
11. You are the Light
12. State/Meant
13. Postscript
14. Everything
15. Rooster Egg (unlisted hidden track)

Tags:
Megafaun
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

75 / 100
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