A Fine Frenzy’s "Pines" alternately abstract, familiar

A Fine Frenzy's third studio album, "Pines" takes a listener through some more familiarly structured pop-rock songs, while saving some time to launch into the more extended and abstract.

California singer-songwriter Alison Sudol, who goes by the stage alias A Fine Frenzy, released the album Oct. 9.

The album is laden with images of the forest and the sea asSudol is an ambassador for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Sudol’s new release amounts to an album packed with a wide variety of styles, from the simple pop-structured piece “Avalanches” to more abstract tracks like “Riversong.”

The most noteworthy piece on the album is “Avalanches,” a simply arranged and mostly uncomplicated tune with piano, clean electric guitar, and Sudol’s signature quavering vocals.

“Now is the Start,” takes an edgier turn with heavier guitar, synthesizers, and an overall more ‘electric rock’ flavor.  “It’s Alive” follows suit with a strong uptempo beat and a '80s pop feel, something vaguely between Madonna and Ace of Base.

It would be a mistake to try to characterize the album in terms of older genres, though. Besides the quiet and acoustic tone on the simpler tracks, many of the tunes, from “Pinesong” to “Riversong” to “Winds of Wander,” tend more toward an exploration of loosely related motifs and moods, leaving a listener with music that feels much more abstract than the average modern album.

Case in point: “Winds of Wander” opens with birdsong, before leading into a repeated calling acoustic phrase with similar lyrics; It’s stitched together with a completely different mood when bass, cello, and piano enter to give the tune a more folksy and foreboding which eventually shifts to a more fluid set of textures and rhythms.

You get the idea: there’s a lot going on. For listeners with an open mind, this won’t be any issue, though. It’s almost like listening to classical music, where in ten short minutes a motley of different ideas and moods pass by. The key for many new to this sound will be to get through it all without feeling lost or overwhelmed, and that’s one of the only drawbacks of the album.

This being said, Pines is a reasonably good buy, if for nothing else than some of the less experimental tracks. “Avalanche” is simple and listenable, “Salingsong” is uptempo, catchy, and fun, and “It’s Alive” and “They Can’t if You Don’t Let Them” leave a listener with a sense of a writer whose music can be smart and original. It’s an album that, if nothing else, has a fresh approach to what an average album sounds like.

3/5 stars


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