The music blog that feels so good
There have been quite a few releases relevant to my interests in 2012. Some good, some not so good. Diluvia is somewhere in between. It’s not the worst album I’ve heard this year, but at the same time it’s one that I have a pretty big problem with. Diluvia, on it’s own, isn’t a bad album. But compared to its predecessor I don’t feel that it can stand under its own weight. I also don’t feel it’s a proper follow-up. Perhaps it fits logically and thematically, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. All things considered, the Whales’ sophomore album leaves me fairly unhappy.
2009’s Weathervanes is an album I’m very fond of. It has this very down-to-earth flavor in the instrumentation and production that really involved and engaged me from beginning to end. It’s an album I can sit down with almost any time and kind of lose myself in. This quality is also reflected in the lyricism, which uses imagery ostensibly pulled from the dreams of frontman Judah Dadone. The album seems to explore relationships, both beginning and end, as well as death and the acceptance of death. Weathervanes resonates with me as a very heartfelt and, again, personal experience.
The sound of it was something that seemingly wasn’t meant to be played to large audiences. Or wouldn’t translate well if it was. There isn’t a lot of grandeur to it. Rather, it’s a lot more homely. The production of it explores a lot of room but doesn’t try to fill a lot of space at once. Each sound, instrument, and layer is clear and concise. The personal touch in the lyricism is reflected in the instrumentation, as there is rarely any sort of chaos or bravado. Judah’s vocals are always the center of it all, but he never gets lost in the mix. Weathervanes is the kind of album I’d imagine being played for small audiences. You get the idea, right?
Well, Diluvia is.. the complete opposite of everything I just described. It’s loud, so very loud, and is constantly filling every last iota of the space around you. Whereas Weathervanes was meant for a small group and an intimate experience, Diluvia is an album that would feel right at home being played end-to-end at whatever large indie festival there is out there. This is why I do not like it as a follow-up to the début: it feels like a very sudden and unwelcome left turn. This was, of course, entirely intentional: the Whales weren’t shy about voicing their intention to escape the claustrophobia of their début and make something bigger and bolder.
They succeeded, don’t get me wrong. 2009 aside, Diluvia isn’t a bad album. Each track had a little something about it that gave it that little something that makes it stand out. The band’s collective multi-instrumental talent is present and accounted for throughout. I especially like the vocal performance in opener “Aeolus”, as well as the magical imagery in the lyrics. Later on there’s the début single “Spitting Image” which is a track that I will surely continue to spin on repeat well into next year because I honestly can’t get enough of it. It’s my favorite track on the album, although the grandeur of it surrounding bassist Doris Cellar’s vocals make it hard not to hear a distinct similarity to Arcade Fire. Could be just me, though.
So, yeah, I can’t say I hate it at all. Actually, I do enjoy it. Although it’s a loud and noisy album, each track being as or if not more heavily layered than the climax of Weathervanes, they’re very well put together. As I said before, the band’s knowledge and talent is still very much in play here: I never had a problem engaging in the compositions and letting myself get swept up in them. What’s more, there are still plenty of unique sounds present, as was on their début, as well as familiar instrumentation that you’ve come to expect from Freelance Whales (that’s right: banjo). All things considered, Diluvia is every bit as meticulous as the album before it.
When it all comes down to it, I like it and hate it in some sort of odd simultaneous quantum emotional state. I was hoping for more Weathervanes but what I got was something much more akin to mainstream indie chamber pop, such as the aforementioned Arcade Fire. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the band retain enough of their traditional style to retain at least that much distinction. But fans heavily into what that début had to offer (such as myself) may find themselves at odds with it.