Crossroads, Middletown Reviews 2008
Polair bears his soul
First playing this CD in the kitchen whilst making dinner, two things stuck in my mind - a number of the songs remind me of the melodic, melancholic folk of Sophia and at one point my ears pricked up because I thought I was listening to the Pale Fountains. Two points of interest are a positive indicator; an awful lot of the records I listen to fail to register any. On closer listen Polair has an awful lot more going for him than being likened to excellent yet defunct groups.
The deliberate walk of the strings on ‘Fallen Angels’ is definitely one of the points that invited me to think of Sophia and it was the bucolic bossa nova of ‘Eternidad’ though sung in Spanish that made me think of the young Michael Head and the iconoclastic fun of his first band. Polair does up-tempo indie folk rock with some brio, ‘Tragi-Comic Girl’ boasts a superb opening and a chorus that is surrounded by guitars that are both melancholic but paradoxically uplifting. Then there is ‘Teenage Years’ that has some banjo plucking that would make the nimblest of Bluegrass pickers flush with envy. This is the kind of stuff that Joe Pernice started out making in the Scud Mountain Boys.
Even better, for me at least, is ‘God Knows Why’ which reminds me of Herman Dune who are the best exponents at this kind of left-field folk/indie rock. Some of the songs suffer from a lack of a strong identity, but they’re nonetheless pleasant and this collection is satisfying in the way that home baked bread is.
Crossroads, Middletown was created to fulfil every interpretation imaginable, so I can hardly get it wrong. If you stripped away the vocals for 'Settle Down' it sounds like Craig David has taken a trip to Texas and taken on the influences, banjos, folk life and decided to remix his songs with a country twang.
But by adding Fabien back into the equation this song is by no means a joke, it's a well constructed musical journey of dusty settings and spectacular views.
'Fallen Angels' is by far my favourite track on this EP. Not only does it have a deep meaning behind the lyrics, the music is spell binding and takes you by the wings up into the darkness of above.
This record is truly deserving of a pat on the back, Fabien's ear for music is transformed into beautiful songs with heart felt story's behind each and every one. This doesn't just create a good listen but also creates a connection to the artist and this bond will make you a fan for life.
Fabien Polair returns with an amazingly enchanting, and undeniably elegant album.
If you haven't heard anything by Fabien Polair yet, then you are surely missing out on something magical. He is an artist with a very raw and passionate talent, and he expresses emotions perfectly through his music, which is something that very few musicians tend to achieve.
Fabien Polair has returned with a new album titled 'Crossroads, Middletown', and it houses fourteen of the most fabulous tracks. Followers of Fabien Polair's music may think that 'Crossroads, Middletown' is his own personal reaction to his previous album, 'Circumstances of the Present World', which is fairly politically focused and contrasting in themes and sounds compared to his latest effort, but it's simply the work of a musician who is free to follow his moods and inspiration, whatever the consequences and wherever they may lead.
Track five of the album, 'Caught In The Monotony', is particularly worth noting for the beautiful harmonica melodies. It is rare for a musician to use a harmonica for more than a brief flirtation in a song, however Polair makes it sing and the sound is so rich and vibrant that one almost wouldn't mind hearing the pure instrumental part of the track by itself.
The ballads are soothing whilst tracks such as 'Tragi-Comic Girl' and 'Teenage Years' provide a slightly more pop and light-hearted feel. The graceful tones of Fabien Polair's voice are quite simply put, intoxicating. This album really grows on you the more that you listen to it, there is an instant attraction that builds until before you know it - you've placed it amongst your favourite albums.
'Crossroads, Middletown' is a delicate mix of easy listening and folk, yet it doesn't flow as a paint by numbers album, it is far too soft and charming to be that straight forward. Fabien Polair will be performing throughout Europe during 2008, it would be a complete delight to see him live, and I for one am eagerly awaiting his next move.
Crossroads, Middletown is a lovely gentle piece of Americana, with hints of American Music Club, American Football and Wilco, to name but a few. Lovely, lush instrumentation layered deeply and complimented perfectly by Fabien’s voice, which perfectly walks the line between vulnerable and whiney.
Making it even more impressive is the fact that he played everything on the album himself (I assume not at the same time, because there’s quite a lot going on in some of the songs!) and even appears to have released the CD himself. In some ways I find it a real shame that such an obvious talent can’t get his record released by a label, but on the other hand if self releasing gives him the freedom to make such great alt.country songs then it’s all good.
Recommended if you like slide guitar and banjos, and Uncle Tupelo and Jets
Circumstances of the Present World
Intuitive and unpredictable with engaged lyrics, a style some describe as 'conceptual protest emo rock'
Circumstances of the Present World can be listened to on two levels: the first just to disappear into the soft, folds of the rich sounds; or you could choose to hear it as a one man observation, perhaps even protest, to the state and failures of our present society, as well as speculations about its future.
The album comes to me with a small pile of medical smelling flashcards with quotes, almost like biblical proverbs, with words such as 'Censorship is advertising paid by government' or 'People would rather be wrong than be different', and my personal favourite 'In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'. All good words of truth.
So what about the music? Covering a range of present day topics of the shortcomings of our world, Polair speaks out about politics, religion, ideas and ways of thinking, channelling his message through powerful and often moving, intelligent music: The chaotic, siren sounds of '466 64' contrasts with the calmness of the spaced out synths in 'Abberhalis', a gorgeous melodic masterpiece, lo-fi yet with an air of epic grandeur.
'Politics and Religion' is a rolling, multi layered facet, addressing conflicts through said issues. One of a kind, at times rather morbid, but at all times to the point;
Polair is the voice of a generation, speaking out against the system, and he urges you to reflect on this too.
An eighties style intro to 'World Gone Daft' will force you into either the love or hate category. An opening that, if it weren't for the vocals, you'd put money on it being early Bon Jovi. Just a four song sample of the full album, 'Circumstances of the Present World', becomes more enjoyable if you force your ears to concentrate on the music rather than the lyrics.
That said, the vocals have a certain tone that fits the deeper meaning behind the songs. This might have something to do with the handful of political and worldly opinions that came with the demo, on little pieces of paper. How novel. It's hard to know what to think, do you agree with them and the nature of the music or just try and enjoy it on its own? Me, I hate politics.
Melancholy seems to be a running theme, at times the music reaches depths of heartfelt beauty but it can also become spacey - so I wouldn't slap it on if you're looking for some fun. Some deeply moving piano work can't be faulted and Polair definitely venture into the realms of brit-pop at times and would no doubt fit well in today's chart.
You wouldn't be wrong in thinking 'LovEx' is bordering on dance music being the catchiest track of the demo and an almost surreal chorus. It can seem a bit intense but at the same time delicate and intricate. As an album it definitely meets its aims in trying to shake us to think about today's society yet doesn't fail to bring you down. Great title though.