Freelance Whales: Diluvia
- Freelance Whales’ are exploring a new chapter of diverse sounds in their sophomore album, Diluvia, offering up a new contribution to the ever-expanding indie-folk-pop scene. The New York-based quintet have toned down their quirkiness in favour of richly textured tracks that take longer to unfold, and even longer to learn to appreciate.
Yes, Diluvia falls into that murky and unclear category of being a ‘grower.’ While this term is often applied far too liberally by reviewers, and usually because of an internal desire to want the tracks to be better than they actually are, in the case of Freelance Whales, a few extra spins are well-worth the effort.
Diluvia refers to glacial drift as a result of a great flood, an appropriate metaphor for the pace of the overall album. Their music hasn’t changed all that drastically since their debut, Weathervanes, there is still a plentiful supply of jangling banjo melodies, and welcome appearances of guitar and piano solos throughout. However, synths steer this album at every turn, delivering it into an ethereal, dreamy manifestation of their prior sounds.
Lyrically, Judah Dadone has delved into the world of science fiction, space exploration, wanderlust and adventure feature strongly throughout. Bringing an admirable sincerity to his lyrics, Dadone muses about emptiness and longing in a surprisingly unpretentious way. He has revealed that the album is far more collaborative and less inward than their previous work, which seems to have caused a strong leap in the complexity and arrangement of tracks.
Diluviaalso features vocals from Doris Cellar, her increased microphone presence really grounds the sometimes far-fetched nature of the album and provides some of the best tracks. ‘Spitting Image’ is her greatest contribution, highlighting her vocal ability and providing some great keyboard melodies.
‘Aelus’ fuses rumbling percussion with a robust choir, neatly packaged within waves of symphonic synths. The strength in this track is the overall energy rather than the lyrics themselves.
‘Land Features’ is brimming with musical thoughts and textures, although similar to previous tracks. ‘Follow Through’ is similarly warm bodied, as Dadone contemplates more earthly concerns demonstrating meticulous writing skills. Later ‘Dig Into Waves’ and ‘Locked Out’ pulsate over stirring horns and synths, conjuring up an effortlessly easygoing sentiment.
‘DNA Bank’ is about seven minutes of wind chimes too long, as the end of the album becomes unforgivably dragged out and repetitive. Everything is slightly overdone, the complexity is simultaneously a highlight and a drawback, it all just becomes a bit too much at time.
The album finds a happy medium between familiar and well-placed surprises and although when compared to Weathervanes it is lacking, there are still plenty of accomplishments throughout. Freelance Whales have avoided the dreaded sophomore slump and created some real gems, some of them just take a few extra listens to become apparent.
- Clare Armstrong.