Release Date: Oct 9, 2012
Record label: Mom & Pop Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
After spending two years on the road promoting their debut album, 2010’s Weathervanes, Freelance Whales are back faster than some may have expected. Riding on the coattails of a successful freshman effort, the Queens natives pushed themselves even farther for the follow-up, Diluvia. With producer Shane Stoneback (Cults, Vampire Weekend, Fucked Up) at the helm, this album continues to explore elements of dream-pop, albeit with a bigger, more ambitious sound.
An elegant swirl of tasteful progress. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the more orchestral strain of indie rock has proven to be among the most enduring. Hindsight has only further sanctified the chorale side of the Beach Boys, and arguably for a generation where angst might be a given, there’s greater resonance in the search for craftsmanship.
New York twee-poppers Freelance Whales took many by surprise with their debut album Weathervanes. Its sound popped, the tight arrangements and crisp banjo propelling the listener through an old house where stories lurked behind every door. Over it all, Judah Dadone’s spirited voice told of ghosts and haunted staircases like Ben Gibbard’s energetic understudy.
Diluvia, the second studio outing from Queens-based indie pop quintet Freelance Whales, is, according to the press release, "a record about the possible survival -- or peril -- of space-faring humans and other arguably fantastical scenarios. " The band takes that statement quite literally, offering up 11 bubbly, sci-fi/philosophical confections that willfully blend the shimmery, electro-chamber pop of Jónsi, the bookish preciousness of Sufjan Stevens, and the cleverly disguised Top 40 yearnings of Passion Pit into the musical equivalent of a Japanese role-playing game. 2010's Weathervanes played fast and loose with traditional indie folk trappings like banjo and glockenspiel, augmenting those instruments' urban hominess with crystalline synth loops and kitchen sink percussion, a tactic that's been both honed and magnified on the deliriously effervescent Diluvia.
It’s easy to forget that not too long ago, an independent album was practically dependent on critical acclaim in order to find any success outside of its immediate circle. The sheer amount of music that receives a legitimate shot at being heard today is both awesome and absurd. Sure, there were always plenty of bands making noise in their respective corners of the world, but thanks to the recent rise of internet music publications, countless festivals for every niche, free streaming, and creative marketing, the playing field has been leveled to a point where an independent artist can find a significant audience even without tons of critical acclaim or mainstream radio airplay.
Some bands work hard at putting their liberal arts degrees to good use, deploying humanities-based critical-thinking skills beyond sophomore literature. Case in point: Queens, N.Y., quintet Freelance Whales, whose second LP Diluvia opens with the dreamy "Aeolus," named for, as we all know, the Greek ruler of the winds. Naturally, the song evokes wind chimes with a layered orchestra of voices, tinkles, and plunks, as Diluvia's narrative gets borne into worlds beyond ours, exploring space for new galaxies and life-forms.
Ambition’s a double-edged sword. It is typically a plus, but it can lead you to some outlying places steering you from a more direct, digestible track as it has Freelance Whales. They’ve turned from the twinkling twee of their 2010 debut to dreamy electro-tinged indie pop that retains some of their baroque instincts but submerges them in British darkwave echoes of the Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen.