Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Phoenix Foundation - Horsepower

Sometimes being mellow is a good thing. In the case of The Phoenix Foundation's US debut Horsepower it's quite a good thing. This band from New Zealand, not to be confused with the only other one Americans know (Flight of the Conchords...hilarious by the way), decided to re-release their 2004 debut Horsepower with a couple additional tracks for their Stateside debut. Immediate comparisons can be made to early (acoustic) Coldplay with elements of the The Shins. While I was optimistic that the album wouldn't be a sobbing and mopey journey, it's hard to escape that feeling after a few listens. On the other hand, sometimes it's perfect for the mood.

Horsepower clearly shows promise from a band already very well known in their homeland. They've already played in some of the country's largest festivals including Big Day Out. I was really hoping for more than just a couple upbeat tunes. For a band that grew up listening to the likes of Pantera and Slayer this type of music seems like a total contradiction. Gentle harmonies, and falsetto crooning are the norm on this effort. They maintain a spacey, playful, and even whimsical feel throughout most of the album. Especially atmospheric tracks include "Sister Risk" and "St. Kevin." The Phoenix Foundation should have little trouble finding a spot on any number of melodramatic TV shows here in the US. Essentially, a music supervisor's dream since they're unknown and would provide a perfect paring for a gray sky or melancholy afternoon. If you're looking to chillax and contemplate life, Horsepower would be a perfect album for that endeavor.


erin said...

I've already expressed to you my love of all things Phoenix Foundation, and, in their defense, I'd argue that mellow doesn't always equate to mopey. I find a lot of their songs to be relaxing and melodic but rarely depressing. (On another note if you're in the market for more upbeat songs some of my favorite upbeat Phoenix Foundation songs actually come from their second album, Pegasus).

On a final note, I'd reckon that more Americans have heard of The Finn Brothers (and their respective 80's bands- Crowded House and Split Enz) than know about Flight of the Conchords or The Phoenix Foundation...

Alison said...

I keep reading reviews about TPF being mellow and low-key, which always surprises me, because I don't think of them that way. I guess some of the songs are, but it's not my overall impression of them. Definitely check out Pegasus, and if you get the chance to see them live, you definitely won't think of them as mellow. A rip-roaring good time!

For the record, TPF has opened for Neil Finn in the past, if I remember correctly, and they're friends with FotC.