Dezember 5th, 2007 by admin
The XL Recordings office in Notting Hill is a pretty cool place. Entering through the front door, you’re confronted by nearly 20 years of XL memorabilia plastered wall to wall. There’s Adele’s iPhone Fund jar sitting next to the door, M.I.A.’s shoes and the How Many? How Many? shirts from the “Boyz” video hanging from the wall and countless framed magazine covers featuring XL artists old and new lining the halls, with the artwork from Thom Yorke’s Eraser covering any remaining wall space (of which there’s not much to speak). Curious though, are the black and white stickers labeled frYars peppering the walls throughout the office. Upon inquiring as to their significance last spring, I got a nonchalant “Oh he’s friends with Cajun Dance Party”, and the conversation moved on. Somehow they failed to mention his merit as a recording artist in his own right, or the fact that he might just be the best electropop act since Maps hit the scene last year, and it’s taken me until now to finally track down his material. Holy shit though, talk about worth the wait.
Schoolmate and collaborator with the likes of Cajun and Bombay Bicycle Club, frYars (née Ben Garrett) is another young London upstart carrying the torch for the new wave of brilliant teenage talent coming out of the UK right now. But where his peers stick to the more familiar ground of conventional guitar-centric Britpop, frYars explores the less charted territory of experimentally-leaning electro-pop. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve championed Cajun Dance Party and the like in these pages extensively and expressed a sufficient amount of awe at their ability to produce such impressive tracks at such a young age, but frYars is perhaps the most impressive of them all. Crafting brilliant electronic pop compositions equally challenging and accessible, the 18 year-old has is establishing a unique niche for himself in an European electronic music climate heavily saturated with acts overly-fixated on dancefloor accessibility in the stead of creative songcraft and artistic merit.
On frYars remarkable debut EP, The Ides, the reference points are endless: the bouncy pop of Royksopp jostles for position alongside the keyboard sounds of Hot Chip, Maps and the Postal Service, even veering into the glitchy territory of Ed Banger house and 8-bit electro at times. Over it all, there’s Garrett’s astoundingly mature British croon recalling the likes of Alex Kapranos and Morrissey, singing lyrics rooted in a dream-like state of consciousness occupying a space somewhere between thought and expression. Nearly every song references death and despair to some extent, but the morbidity of it all is largely obscured by jaunty pop melodies and a youthful bounce. In discussing his lyrics, Garrett invokes the philosophy of his favorite thinker: “Nietzsche is presented or misinterpreted often as a negative force, despite being probably one of the more positive thinkers. He is tantamount to nihilism, yet nihilism is where we embrace life. We should think for ourselves, as far as we are able… this is probably Nietzsche’s greatest concern. At the same time, his writing is entertaining and full of art. This is what frYars is about, not doom and gloom.”
“Ides” is the single and title track, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a weak moment on the release thanks to Garrett’s beyond-his-years songwriting ability and former Clor frontman Luke Smith’s immaculate production on the record. Lyrics and basic melodies aside, Garrett and Smith experiment with a broad sound palette that takes the tracks to new heights of excellence. Production flourishes weave and wind throughout the mix, with the duo dropping all manner of synthetic sound effects and always with impeccable timing. “Madeleine” is perhaps the best example of this, all squiggling synths in the chorus and quirky booms and bips throughout. “HappY” is the true show-stealer on the record though, jangly guitars and hand-claps filling out the mix alongside his familiar keyboard sounds and politically-minded lyrics, all leading up to an immense chorus that takes to the skies without warning and hits hard as one of the year’s best. “HappY” is up for download below and I’d love to share more, but this shit’s really worth your dollar no matter how hard-earned it is. Plus, it’s available DRM-free in high quality on iTunes, so you really have no excuse this time. Or better yet, help out his label and buy the actual 7″ (A-side: “Ides”, B-side: “HappY”) and then sell when it’s worth mad money in a year or two. Long story short though, frYars rules.
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