Forest Fire’s Survival is curious, memorable, intriguing

Survival

Here are some things that are instantly noticeable about Brooklyn-based band Forest Fire‘s debut, Survival:

  • The male/female vocals and harmonies
  • The near-constant strum of acoustic guitar
  • A wealth of instruments poking their heads in at random parts of songs

What you might not notice so quickly, though, is how driven by percussion this record is. The production’s emphasis is placed almost always on the vocals or guesting instrument, but without the drums, Survival would be nearly unlistenable.

With them, though, the CD is something else entirely: a rustic, folksy set of songs with a streak of foot-tapping catchiness.

There’s no better example than “Through My Gloves.” Like many songs on the album, there isn’t terribly much going on at once. There’s the acoustic guitar, an intermittent electric, voice, ambient noise, and simple but commanding drums. The drums take over quickly, though, and every snare hit is monstrous. The same idea holds true with standout “Fortune Teller,” whose kick/snare/kick/snare beat and funky bass line join the acoustic guitar and odd lyrics (“but first I’m gonna melt some faces / with Gatling gun social skills”) to produce one of the catchier songs on the record.

Similarly, the worst songs are the ones that don’t bother with a percussion backing. “Sunshine City” is a pretty, female-fronted track with loads of potential that can’t figure out what it wants to do, and simply drowns beneath its repetitive lyrical structure.

Also, this album is short. And I don’t mean short like “I was left wanting more, it went by so fast!” I mean short like “holy hell, it’s barely half an hour long!” Actually, both of those are sort of true. At the album’s end, I wanted so much more. I wanted more authoritative drums, more awesome surprises (like the delicious horns on “Echoes Coming”), and more than anything else, I wanted more of the atmosphere Forest Fire created. Its familiar music fashioned out of parts that sound so left-of-center. It was exciting, if occasionally ineffective, but dammit, I want more.

Forest Fire – “Fortune Teller” [MP3]

Forest Fire – “Echoes Coming” [MP3]

Forest Fire – “Through My Gloves” [MP3]

Forest Fire on MySpace

Purchase Forest Fire’s Survival

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