Guitar-pop/pop-rock/math-rock band FES have been around a few years now. They’ve been putting in a hell of a lot of hours into touring and plugging away and EPs. However the band are finally releasing their debut album tomorrow, and I could not be more stoked. We saw these guys in Notts last year (link to the review here) and loved them, so to have the chance to get a sneak peak at this is an honour. Without further ado, here is our thoughts on With Regards From Home.
Starting off as on FES could, ‘Chew’ opens on some fantastic guitar playing and a huge chord before it drops down a bit for the vocals. It’s pop-punk math-rock blended perfectly together and is massively catchy. The dynamics are fun, it dropping down and building up multiple times throughout. There’s also a fantastic harmony on the vocal coming through the build-up around 2-minutes in, adding even more punch and epicness to the sound. I lost track a little of the structure a little but it doesn’t matter at all, this was phenomenal. The lyrics resonated pretty strongly with me too, as they would probably anyone at one time or another. This was awesome and easily makes the playlist!
‘Clarinet’ opens on another fantastically technical guitar riff, built on perfectly by the bass and drums. The vocals are again massively catchy, having a real old-Hayley-Williams twang to them. It’s hard not to constantly gush over the instrumentation, though. This band is three people at the very top of their craft and they are AMAZING songwriters. They manage to fit all their weirdness and craziness together somehow perfectly. This may sound insane, but I’d put the front-woman up there with the likes of Tosin Abasi and Santana in terms of technical guitar ability, she really is that good. More great stuff!
‘Sun Visor’ launches straight into the verse, vocals and a quirky riff ringing through. It somehow sounds even better when the bass takes over for the riff. The guitar holds a huge chord, letting it ring and distort and add another huge layer to the track. Then it suddenly shifts gears heading into the chorus, turning almost uplifting. It fits in with the mood of the trach though and was a smooth transition. The track is another awesome one, catchy and bouncy and a lot of fun!
I am coming to realise that I maybe cannot review this album in the same way as I review most others. Otherwise it’ll just be me repeatedly saying ‘the instrumentation is incredible’ and ‘the vocals are great’ and ‘I love the lyrics’. While with some bands I would complain that this would make the album too boring and repetitive, I could listen to this style all day. FES manage to constantly keep it interesting and keep me on my toes. So instead, I feel like I just need to bring to attention the highlights and bits that I loved, as well as anything I feel less positive towards.
‘So So’ has some of the best lyrics I have heard in a very long time. The melancholy, stripped back instrumentation for it fits the theme perfectly, too. The drop-outs and dynamics in ‘Bruises’ were a lot of fun and had me genuinely questioning if my laptop was still working at times. Also, slower track ‘Black Eye’ was a nice change of pace at first after a rather upbeat first half of an album. And the proggy, slower outro was awesome.
‘Seethrough’ is a massive highlight of the album for me. The guitaring reminds me of early Newton Faulkner. The whole track just being that and vocals, alongside some ambient sounds to accompany, was really beautiful. I’m so glad it didn’t drop into the rest of the band. I was hoping for something much different to the rest of the album and this was exactly that. The lyrics are impactful and fantastic and it all pieces together perfectly. Playlisted!
My only very minor gripe with this album is that after the aforementioned track it does go back to the similar formula again. I know I had mentioned before that I could listen to this style all day and I most certainly can. But that isn’t to say it will hold my full attention forever. This is a fantastic album that I would recommend to absolutely anyone, but it was a hard one to sit down and review. I get distracted easily and no matter how fantastic an album is, if it is a lot of similarly great songs over and over, I find my mind wandering.
And yes, I know how hard it is to create different sounds with just three people in a sub-genre like this, so I don’t even have a solution. I guess I’m basically just saying ‘goddamn you guys for being so good at what you do!’. Maybe it’s just jealousy. Either way, the final three tracks are also stellar and ‘Washout’ is a fantastic way to close an album!
Overall: what more can I say that I haven’t already? It is an absolute masterclass in how to play the core rock instruments (including vocals). Also, the band have the incredible ability to portray such emotion, not just through the deeply person lyrics but through their delivery and the playing as well. It feels like this band could do absolutely any genre they wanted, they simply play this style as they enjoy it. One of the strongest debut albums I’ve heard in decades. And, before my professional jealousy creeps back in, I’m going to give this…
The Score: 9/10
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