Under the Radar – Fol Chen

This secretive L.A. band makes killer sounds on their first two albums.

Describing Fol Chen’s music is easy.  Great dance rock with an even better expiramental edge.  Describing Fol Chen themselves is not so easy.  They’ve decided to make themselves very “behind the scenes”, Gorillaz style.  Doing things like keeping images of themselves off of album art, and convincing their record label(Asthmatic Kitty) to withhold personal information from the public.  It’s not an original modus operandi but it is an effective one.  There’s always elevated interest in something if people don’t know what it is.  If it worked for Albarn and Hewlitt, it’ll work for whoever the hell these guys are right?  Well enough about persona, even the coolest looking band in the bunch isn’t worth the gel in their hair if they don’t make good music.  It’s a good thing Fol Chen does just that.

If you’re looking to dance, even if by yourself, and you’re also looking to say “Damn, that’s a cool sound.” a lot,  Well then I highly recommend Fol Chen to you.  They have a really eerie way about them which tends to produce a slew of interesting bits of music, and they lean toward the up tempo danceable type of music about 75% of the time.  The thing about Fol Chen is that the other 25% is even better.  As of now, Fol Chen has released two albums in an apparent series.  Parts I and II do actually sound like parts of a series, they are similar in musical styles and are close to each other in length.  The albums are as follows:

2009’s Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made

The weaker of the two parts, Part I is still a fantastic first LP.  The opening track entitled “The Believers” hits you right in the face with the band’s signature dark and ominous tone.  “By God we’re on our bended knees but we don’t know what it means/far beyond your yellow eyes there’s something there that you can’t see.”  Heavy, pulse pounding percussion is littered throughout the album along with strings and excellent use of synthesizers and juxtaposition of lighter hearted songs like “No Wedding Cake” and darker songs like “Winter, That’s All”…  “Lately I don’t feel so hot/could it be the summer, turning into fall/lately I don’t feel so hot/could it be the winter, that’s all.”  They also make very good use of woodwinds, or at least synthesized woodwinds on songs like “Please John, You’re Killing Me”.  Again, for a first album it’s excellent, but just one year later Fol Chen followed it up with something even better still…

2010’s Part II: The New December

BAM!!  This disc owns.  Top to bottom, side to side.  Seriously, from the opening track “The Holograms” to the closing title track, this album keeps you moving and gives you goosebumps at the same time.  It truly grabs you by the short hairs at every turn.  Just try and listen to “Men, Beasts or Houses” while keeping the hairs on your neck from standing on end.  I submit that it is impossible.  As a matter of fact I’d like not to say much more about this disc.  One needs to hear it for themselves.  Just let it be known that it easily makes my top 10 of 2010.  Which I will publish in the coming month.

Fol Chen has been flying under the radar for far too long.  People this talented just need to be given a chance by a general audience.  That will never happen on the scale that it should, but being part of the minority who does give these people a chance will be absolutely worth it.  Consider that a Ground Control guarantee.



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