The Marica Frequency – When Things Fall Down – Album Review
After the past year spent learning about the music of The Marica Frequency and reviewing singles, I’ve got my first opportunity to check out a full album with their brand-new 2019 record When Things Fall Down. The Marica Frequency always makes me smile in this really odd way…like they take me back to the days when the selection of music wasn’t as intensely vast as it is today, and you found that special indie band that no one knew about…like they were somehow all your own. I’m sure I share The Marica Frequency with thousands of other fans out there, as much as I’d like to think I’ve got’em all to myself; and to their credit, that’s because they damn well deserve to be heard.
“The Gunslinger” alone had me on their side once again for this new experience with the music of The Marica Frequency. Love the harmonica, love the structure and clever breaks along the way, love the backing vocals and the harmonies between the two singers in this band…everything about “The Gunslinger” oozes that true Indie-Rock appeal and progressively gets bigger & bigger as it plays on. Serious points to the harmonica here…it’s a featured element more or less unique to this song only, but used so well you’d figure you’d almost hear it show up in every song they have! Smart track to open the record on, “The Gunslinger” moves carefully for just over two & half-minutes before adjusting the dial and breaking loose thereafter in a blaze of brilliance and true evolution to the next-level this song deserved. They handle the final two-minutes or so instrumentally, and let me tell ya dear readers, dear friends – this band can handle their business like complete champions and veterans of the music-scene. For a first cut, “The Gunslinger” is a serious journey in music and memorable moment in time – I loved the way this beginning ramps up to such heights as it played on and I think it says a ton about the musicianship in The Marica Frequency in being able to hold our interest so firmly without a single word over the course of its last minutes.
Listen to the smart addition of backing vocals in amongst the strings and hauntingly melodic lead-vocals on “Break The Seal” – this song is a freakin’ masterpiece. Very much in an Arcade Fire kind of style & approach, the combination of vocals in this band make their presence felt on “Break The Seal” and deliver a spine-tingling performance between them that is absolutely stunning and purely beautiful. Marisa Frantz has always been an impressive part of The Marica Frequency, but she pretty much redefines beauty through her vocals on this second tune from When Things Fall Down – her performance is remarkable and completely world-class. Make no mistake though, Christoper John Evans also makes magic with his parts on the microphone of this song as well, “Break The Seal” is a perfectly executed vision in art & music combined, full-stop. Chances are, if I’m being honest with myself and with all of you, “Break The Seal” is probably my favorite song on the record; I think every once & a while you hear that tune you know has broken ground for a band/artist in the most perfect of evolutionary ways – this is that song. I think “Break The Seal” is a complete confirmation of just how special this band truly is and just as much of a solid nod to the amazing music they’ve still got coming in their future.
I’ll fully admit that, “Break The Seal,” is the kind of act that’s extremely hard to follow – it’s an incredible moment in time and massive win for The Marica Frequency on this album. The title-track might suffer a bit as a result of following it…”When Things Fall Down” is a good tune, but might have gone a bit too far treble-up/distortion with the guitars on this mix to fully tap the potential of all the melody it has to offer. That being said, the guitar solo hits the mark for me big time…and ultimately, I think the idea itself is strong…I like the backing vocals and progression of the main melody; I’d probably lean towards the final couple minutes of instrumental music as being my favorite part of this song, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the rest as well. Maybe a little bit more towards a Neil Young kind of mix or musical structure; Chris’ vocals give it all a more grounded & melodic sound…I was never quite sure of what I felt like this title-track seemed to be missing a bit of…and again, I think most of that feeling is caused by the highly memorable moment in time they’ve created just before this tune, so blame them, not me. Title-tracks, as I’ve said multiple times over the years, are some of the hardest songs to get perfectly right…they’re often the centerpiece idea or core concepts we build around…and sometimes that summation of ambition, sentiment, or themes, can get the better of us. I’d say that The Marica Frequency stays just on the right side of this tune and keeps it on course enough to not to passed over, but I’d also admit that in comparison to the magic of “Break The Seal” beforehand, it’s tougher to immediately love & accept.
“The Owl” takes The Marica Frequency into their longest track from the album, topping over six-minutes. With its atmospheric opening gently revealing the vocals of Marisa & Chris in another beautiful duet, they tap into a nearly Mazzy Star or Belly-like vibe that executes on that hazy/dreamy sound our ears love so much. Marisa free-styling her vocals is an exquisite treat for the ears…not even remotely kidding; they’ve made a great choice as a band in writing & finding amazing parts for her to sing and her instincts & talents lead the way from there. It’s got that immaculate indie-innocence like a record from the Alt-90’s…the hypnotic sweetness you’ll find in “The Owl” will make you want a whole lot MORE of it, and the song is already over six-minutes long! You know that’s an achievement. Really cool stuff from beginning to end, blissfully chill and genuinely soul-soothing…without a doubt another standout tune from When Things Fall Down…and again, considering how laidback this entire vibe really is, you’ve gotta admire just how captivating “The Owl” is over its length. I’m tellin’ ya – I could listen to this one song on repeat for days on end and I’d still never want to turn it off when it was time to move again. “The Owl” floats along fluidly, flowing with extreme grace and tangible beauty you can’t miss.
I dig that “Saturday Morning” has The Marica Frequency leaning towards a more early-R.E.M. influenced style sound…with that being my favorite band & all, that certainly works for me. The filters on Chris’ vocals are cool…I like that you’ll have to come back a couple times to get every single word, and I also love how the clarity shifts into the clean mix for the chorus…that’s another solid move. Marisa shows up to freestyle some of her incredible background harmonies during the solo before “Saturday Morning” shifts back into its main hooks once again…it’s a sweet Pop/Rock song that definitely succeeds on its maximum potential. Love the clarity on the acoustic guitar on “Saturday Morning” and I think that the chorus has a genuinely appealing sincerity to its melody that connects this song to the sweetness it has in the atmosphere around it. Something about this song that felt a little more revealing when it comes to the heart of what drives The Marica Frequency…hard to be offended by a pleasant vibe like this, it’s inviting & comforting to listen to. Overall, this mix is cleaner-than-clear, it sparkles with sweet sound from beginning to end and has some really inventive & innovative ideas in the background to dig right into as well. There’s an uplifting energy to “Saturday Morning” that you can feel invade your heart.
Maybe you’ll get the feelings I was referring to at the beginning of this review when you’re listening to “The Way That The Blind Were Led” – LISTEN to the inspiring build-up of this song will ya? It’s like you can hear the spirit, magic, and power of music taking hold of The Marica Frequency more & more by the second as this song begins…like it kinda just makes you want to stand up & cheer for’em, you know? I’ll admit it’s probably not the most straight-ahead tune from the time the vocals begin afterwards…”The Way That The Blind Were Led” is quite an ambitious & artistic song by design and many of the hooks that are in this track are in the layers of texture being created. I like the inventive beat it has, the synth-horns you’ll hear are a perfect fit, the finale with Marisa was the cherry on top of a unique experience that reaches for a bit more than some of the other tunes do when it comes to ideas & structure. Not saying that makes it the most obvious choice for a single – almost the opposite; I think “The Way That The Blind Were Led” is likely a track that will gain most of its traction through repeated listens. I liked the opening effects on the vocals, but found the distance between that sound & the cleaner singing to be almost in two separate realms. Loved the samples, loved the breakdown towards the four-minute mark…look, there’s lots of elements of “The Way That The Blind Were Led” to be loved…but I can hear it’ll be a tougher sell at first to some degree when it comes to the twists & turns this journey goes on. Nothing wrong with that at all…as I’ve mentioned, music SHOULD be all about reasons to come back to it – “The Way That The Blind Were Led” will give you about three-song’s worth of reasons in one go.
The more haunting or emotional the atmosphere, the more beauty The Marica Frequency seems to be able to bring to their melodies. “Pass Us By” is another excellent example of that Arcade Fire style sound with just that hint of Reed/Dylan in there that the band creates so well…call me crazy, but this is a combination of styles that completely works. I think when you combine passionate personalities and authentically different vocalists, there’s always a risk that you might not find the balance that works – “Pass Us By” is a perfect example of what it sounds like when it DOES. I love that both Chris and Marisa bring something unique and different to their overall sound and to the parts they’ve written & performed as well – they’re not just acting as layers of the same words, but really finding ways to use both of their strengths to create additional melodies-within-melodies. The sparseness of this song is pure brilliance in full-effect – it’s entirely Chris and Marisa that deserve the spotlight on “Pass Us By” and they’ve made a smart move by allowing their voices to be this isolated for all to hear. Chris has that gripping indie-sincerity & humble vulnerability that makes a massive impact – and Marisa’s the ever-professional, graceful, and angelic heart of the melodies they sing together; words cannot express just how wonderful I truly think they are together, or even how wonderful they are on their own. Listening to the final minute of Marisa’s vocals sweetly take us to the end of “Pass Us By” is everything. Not just something – but everything, you feel me? Another noteworthy highlight on When Things Fall Down.
Alright…so…look…I was raised in the Grunge-era and I’ve got a ton of love for distortion, believe me. Still makes it tougher to absorb “Bad Apple” on the punch of that first couple listens coming right after the sweetness & smoothness of “Pass Us By” – let’s just be clear about that. Placement-wise, it’s hard to not be jolted by spots like “When Things Fall Down” coming after “Break The Seal” or “Bad Apple” following “Pass Us By” now – you’ll feel it…songwriting & performance-wise, they’re exceeding all expectations; now it’s about cohesion and restraint in the lineup of tunes to create an experience we don’t get restless with. Some people are bound to feel like ‘just as I was getting into it’ the sound shifted in one-way or the other, just enough to crave what had just appealed to them, know what I mean? Having said that, “Bad Apple” is completely the kind of Indie Rock/Pop melody that has and always will appeal to me; it’s not nearly as polished in sound, nor does it make any intentions of being so…tunes like this are in the moment and present, and personally I dig that. I might have been tempted to go with a split-single of “When Things Fall Down” and “Bad Apple” and a seven-track EP along with it in an effort to keep the vibes of the music & cohesiveness in sound intact, but as individual songs, there’s still plenty to love. I think the blossoming into the chorus of “Bad Apple” is one of the most badass College/Indie-Rock sounds you’ll hear this year without question…so if you like your Superchunk, Built To Spill, & Sparklehorse type-stuff, that kind of melodic feedback frenzy is here to add the fuzz to your day for ya.
Love the sound of the crashing waves and the sound of the vocal sample threaded into the beginning of the final tune “The Lonely Coracle.” Sounds like a distant boat with a satellite feed out on the water and watching a TV show of some kind…The Marica Frequency fills in the surrounding atmosphere with gentle synth for just over two-minutes before the vocals kick-in to join the music along with the bass & subtle beat. I think it’s the most clear glimpse of Chris’ true singing voice; he’s somewhat of a chameleon & knows to morph his vocals in order to suit the song, but on “The Lonely Coracle” you’ll hear a lot of really clear, gorgeous tones from the guy as well. Definitely hasn’t been any doubt about The Marica Frequency’s penchant for melody in Rock or ability to execute when it comes to their songwriting & performances, and they give you a genuine final highlight with “The Lonely Coracle.” Chorus of this last cut came out excellent and I felt like the verses continually got stronger as this last experience played on…drifting through a nostalgia-inducing spirit and imagery in the lyrics, it’s another fine example of The Marica Frequency’s ability to create music that really takes you somewhere. Hearing those waves crash gently back in towards the end with Marisa adding the final touch to conclusively end the experience of When Things Fall Down, I felt more than satisfied with this record and every reason to continue to look forward to the music of The Marica Frequency. I maintain there’s something truly special about this band and feel like they really brought many examples of WHY that is straight to the surface of these new songs for all to hear.
Find out more about The Marica Frequency from their official page at: https://themaricafrequency.com
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