Saskatoon super group Friends of Foes has put all their pieces in the right place with their first full album release, Chronophobic.
There is a special moment for a listener when they know that everything in a song has just clicked and that they are hearing some kind of once in a lifetime chemistry between musicians. The band’s energy and the way they engage with each other instrumentally drops the listener into the recording studio with them, creating an almost kindred connection between artist and audience.
Friends of Foes has certainly touched this ground on several occasions with Chronophobic, and show no signs of stopping. What they have done is create a freshman effort not without its flaws, but which stands strong as a great album that wrapped up 2013.
A distinct atmosphere of melancholy is a key theme throughout the project, one that the band relates with their frequent mention of time. The concept comes up in many ways, including looking back with regret or happiness and looking forward with shame or excitement. The infinite possibilities of even a single day and the eternal nature of time is what causes that fear and this is exactly what Friends of Foes wants to highlight.
“Trust in you / Generation growing old,” croons vocalist Celeste Nicholson on the opening track, “Youth.” While she talks about growing older, the song is mostly an exploration of how timeless being young feels. The song is a perfect opener for the album, with a lot of atmospheric plucked guitar and bass building into a beautiful harmony on the chorus.
The only issue with the album begins with the soundscape created on this first track, which feels all too similar to songs which follow — in particular “Ones You Love” and “This City.” While the band seems to be maintaining a similar aesthetic to tie the album together, these first few tracks border on repetitive with their distinct Death Cab for Cutie inspiration that guitar player Matt Stinn has discussed openly.
However, “Light Sleepers/Heavy Dreamers” speeds things up with a nice a bass groove and a tom-heavy drum line. It is another example of everything hitting all the right notes, with an especially infectious hook that wonderfully combines Nicholsons voice with Stinn’s backup.
The main stand out on the album is “Monuments in Yellow Lights.” It has a carefree atmosphere and many strong pop influences that allows a breather from the gloom that resonates throughout a majority of Chronophobic. It would be great to see the band take their songs in such a direction for future releases.
Musically, the album’s tracks are some of the tightest in recent memory. Drummer Keegan Stretch delivers some truly compelling drum lines and the dynamic between recording bassist Nevin Buehler (who has since left the band) and Stinn is ever-present.
However, the group is not looking to show off their skills; Friends of Foes is not a collection of solo artists, but a cohesive unit working together to make undeniably great tunes.
While some songs may not have the full progression they deserve, Chronophobic is a strong debut with fantastic moments by a band that only stands to grow stronger as time passes.