Release Date: Jul 15, 2014
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Fink‘s sixth studio full-length, and their first original body of work since 2011’s Perfect Darkness, arrives with much anticipation. Much of their time away from the world of LP-dom has been spent working on film and TV music, such as co-writing the track Move for 12 Years A Slave, and collaborating on live records. These endeavours are all well and good, but the tantalising tidbits of new noise have teased us all into tousled messes, fraught with excitement and giddier than a ballerina pirouetting on a carousel.
After two live dates cut for the long-suffering faithful, Fink -- comprising singer/songwriter/guitarist Fin Greenall, bassist Guy Whittaker, and drummer Tim Thornton -- offer their first new studio material in three years. Hard Believer is, for the most part, a slow burner; one that employs a more varied, albeit moodier set of textures and sounds than its predecessor, 2011's Perfect Darkness. Recorded at Hollywood Sound with producer/engineer Billy Bush (Garbage, Foster the People), the pace here is generally slow -- even dirge-like in places -- but the timbral palette that illustrates these melancholy songs puts them across in often unexpected ways.
There’s been quite a bit of talk that Fink’s Hard Believer doesn’t deliver on the artistic promise made by 2011’s Perfect Darkness. But that would be to assume that each subsequent album in an artist’s catalog is meant as a follow-on. Why not let each be what it wants to be… what it is? Hard Believer charts a course unto its own as a boozy, bluesy collection that forgoes the electronic flourishes of its predecessor in favor of a more organic approach replete with fuzzy guitars and insistent drums.
Fink has come a long way since Fin Greenall put down his sampler in favour of an acoustic guitar all those years ago, moving from downtempo beats to the lush, sensual Americana-laced acoustic song-writing with which he tours the world today alongside drummer/guitarist Tim Thornton and bassist Guy Whittaker. For those who have been in it for the long haul, there is a sense of arrival on his sixth studio album, Hard Believer. Recorded by Billy Bush (Garbage, Foster the People) at the Sound Factory in Hollywood, Greenall's pensive progressive folk sound is at its peak.
For Hard Believer, Fink's sixth album proper, he turns to live + electronics expert producer Billy Bush (Garbage, Beck, Foster the People) to bring dimension to his minimalist, sometimes predictable sound. Bush is a good match for Fink main man, Fin Greenall, who got his start making beats—including for Amy Winehouse—in the DJ world. And although Fink has been spending an inordinate amount of time collaborating on hits with John Legend, Hard Believer isn't Fink "plugged in." Rather, his identifying stripped back instrumentation and mumbling contemplations are executed with a tension that keeps the listener on edge.
Fin “Fink” Greenall began his career in the late '90s as a DJ for the dance label Ninja Tune before radically redirecting in 2006, releasing a series of albums featuring taut folky guitar, delicate grooves, and contemplative, reserved vocals—a laconic but beguiling approach. Hard Believer, Fink's sixth studio album, still delivers mournful nods to Serge Gainsbourg and José Gonzales, but in its ambiance and canny, distorted rhythms, it retains some of the flavor of Fink's days as a DJ. Fink employs mostly familiar structures here, but stretches them on the rack a bit, either dissembling the songs into ambience (“Green and the Blue” features a two-minute instrumental outro) or fleshing them out toward a crescendo with piled-on, fuzzed-out guitars and keys, only to release the tension by closing with the lean formalism of his acoustic guitar.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's not unusual for artists to spend years perfecting a particular sound then trying something completely new. Sudden changes in direction are what make bands exciting, it's certainly what helps to elevate records like Reflektor, Walk the River and 808s & Heartbreak. Yet in those cases the artists in question clearly built upon their original sound to make something expansive, yet recognisable.
After emerging in the 90s as a DJ purveyor of quirky, downtempo sampletronica, the last decade has seen Fink mainman Fin Greenall reinvent himself as a chilled singer-songwriter, winning fans and collaborators in John Legend, Bon Iver and Professor Green. Sixth album ‘Hard Believer’ sticks with the formula established on third effort ‘Distance And Time’, Greenall’s smoky voice complemented by restrained guitar and dry dub rhythms. The insistent piano and flowing string arrangements on ‘Looking Too Closely’ and ‘Pilgrim’ lift the after-hours mood but stripped-back songs like ‘Keep Falling’ and the title track are as ordinary as any earnest troubadour with a Mumfords support.
Fink — Hard Believer (R’COUP’D)Fink, also known as Fin Greenhall, used to be Ninjatunes’ only blues folkie, a position so anomalous that a couple of years ago, the label gave him his own imprint, R’COUP’D on which to ply his shadowy, finger-picking trade. He was on Ninjatune to begin with because of his background in electronics, but you will hear only the tiniest remnant of that beatmaking past here. A bit of luminous atmosphere, the percolation in the margins of twitchy, unidentifiable sounds, the swell of altered vocals — it’s a thin scrim of modernity layered over minimalist guitar-and-voice.In fact, he’s best when he’s most elliptical.