Sweet and dreamy.
I’d been looking forward to the latest release from Freelance Whales since, I don’t know, very shortly after a few weeks of listening non-stop to Enzymes, their debut album. Because so many tracks off that album were so infectious and just straight up likeable, it didn’t take very long to rack up a massive play count and a brewing impatience for the next batch of songs to be released from the New York band.
Given enough time, it finally came about, earlier this month.
Diluvia, the sophomore effort by the band comes back with many of the familiarities that worked so well on the debut- thick layers, a youthful spirit, and some of the more distinct and recognizable instrumental quirks: the playful presence of glockenspiels and banjos galore. They step things up as far as synths are concerned, and perhaps overindulged in the space sounds. The new release is notably dreamy and ephemeral in comparison to Enzymes.
At the start of the first album, Generator^1st Floor starts things off with the feeling of a group of people waking up gradually but energetically in a large house- a lá the Muppets. The start to Diluvia, however, Emergence Exit carries a much stronger vibe of being lulled back into consciousness after drifting off to a nap on a long car ride. (Either that, or the association of listening to this album while on the road is just a bit too strong for me.) Either way, the celestial feel to Diluvia is unmistakable.
It’s because of this that the songs are less distinguished from each other, which is unfortunate, because one of the biggest strengths off Freelance Whales’ early emergence was their ability to mix up their sounds a lot, from a quirky, pop-dancing number like Kilojoules to something somber and driven by powerful lyrics like My Broken Horse. Instead, most of the songs off Diluvia seem airy and heavenly, easy to digest, yet alluding to something bigger. While it’s overall a successful effort, they may have robbed themselves of one of their best qualities as a band- versatility.
That said, it’s still a great album, and will be one of my favourites from the year, I’m sure. One of the best things about the new directions that Freelance Whales has taken on is allowing female vocalist Doris Cellar more of an opportunity to let her vocals shine. Off the lead single, Spitting Image, she takes full reigns of the vocals, which gives it an even more heavenly quality. The song’s playful and airy waves take on a feel oddly reminiscent of Best Coast- something I never thought I’d imagine out of a Freelance Whales song. It would be great to hear more of her while still getting plenty of Judah Dadone’s vocal presence- which is a direction I suspect they’ll pursue in the future.
As mentioned, some of these songs are pure infectious. Locked Out has several different parts that will end up stuck in your head for days and days. Aeolus also takes on a sweet feel that I’ve come to really enjoy. One of my growing favourites, the more and more I listen to it is Red Star with unlikely references all over the place. That’s probably the thing about Diluvia, it’s not as immediately accessible as Enzymes but the songs have a really high probability of growing on you the more and more you listen to them. I’ve taken an early liking to Winter Seeds although I’m sure it looks to be one of those songs. It’s simply quite different from what you might expect out of Freelance Whales based solely on their debut.
I’m glad they’re venturing out, because they’re capable of a whole lot. It’s just that in Diluvia, Freelance Whales seems less in their element and in their own voice, possibly due literal inclusion of more vocals out of their second singer. I’d love to see more simple, acoustic pieces along the lines of My Broken Horse.
At the end of the day, I’m a big fan of Diluvia, just a bigger fan of Freelance Whales. Their album still continues to grow more and more on me and that just might be a sign that they’ve honed in on a few more subtle musical nuances that go a long way to great artists.