Release Date: Sep 20, 2011
Record label: Hometapes
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
For their third studio album, spacy North Carolina-based, alt-country-folk trio Megafaun dial back the more progressive elements of their sound in favor of a languid, Laurel Canyon-inspired foundation that treads the middle ground between Blitzen Trapper's experimental, neo-Southern rock romancing, and Will Oldham's post-Palace Music infatuation with American Beauty-era Grateful Dead. While the eponymous Megafaun is far less exploratory than its predecessors, that doesn’t mean that the band has forsaken its acid-folk roots. At 15 tracks, some of which clock in at over seven minutes, it’s obvious that brevity is a word best left to grace the studio door mat, but outside of the Phishy, jazz-tinged “Isadora,” there’s little here that isn’t instantly accessible.
Many bands use tropes, harmonies and even chord progressions made popular by bygone artists; it makes one wonder what ancient unrecorded artists may have sounded eerily similar to the Grateful Dead, for example. It is probably no coincidence that “Real Slow,” the first song on Megafaun’s self-titled release, brings them to mind. The Beatles come up in the mix quite a few times, too—and yet nothing about this album is inauthentic.
Folk music is too often pinned to conservative types, but there’s a real musically progressive streak running through its veins. Before physical recording was made available, folk songs moved via word-of-mouth, with each composition left up to the performer’s interpretation. Thus, no two versions sound the same. Years and years of personal weathering keep folk songs moving forward while still rooted in the past.
As soaring as it is, as sweet as these tunes are to listen to, beneath its lush layers Megafaun reveals a series of complications, and to listen to it is to expose yourself to a series of tricky questions. 1. When does a music career begin? With the release of this album, there’s an easy arc to follow for Megafaun’s career. They gained local attention in North Carolina with Bury the Square, they broke out to a larger audience with Gather, Form, and Fly and the Heretofore EP, and now they’ve got their fully realized statement, their pinnacle album, Megafaun.
Megafaun you might call casual. "Had a blown-out day off listening to demos and new music with brother Yan," reads a months-old dispatch on their website. "Then we watched Pineapple Express and Knocked Up back to back. Then I fell asleep for 9 hours and awoke to Marty’s famous pasta breakfast." In a roundabout way, that sums up the North Carolinian trio pretty well: attempting the familiar, arriving at the unexpected.
Megafaun’s self-titled fourth album relies more heavily on sublime folk ballads than the musique concrete experimentation that defined their previous releases. B.J. Burton, who has produced albums by fellow Carolinians Annuals and The Love Language, produced Megafaun, and the album bears his signature bittersweet pop sensibilities. “Resurrection”, for example, follows a loping, acoustic rhythm similar to “The Fade”, one of the more accessible songs on 2009’s otherwise abstract Gather, Form, and Fly.