Release Date: Feb 20, 2012
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Post-Rock, Noise Pop, Neo-Psychedelia, Space Rock
As an indie rock outfit with heavy debts to classic rock, My Best Fiend is like no other band Warp Records has signed. While the pioneering electronic label has dipped its toe in rock waters from time to time with bands like Battles, Pivot, Born Ruffians, and Maximo Park, all of those groups had some quirks or experimental tendencies that made their affiliation with Warp a bit more understandable. My Best Fiend, on the other hand, is so relatively straightforward that it makes them somewhat revolutionary in the label's context.
Initially My Best Fiend is just another forgettable Brooklyn indie band to be described with words such as “dreamy” and “hypnotic”; thankfully, they are capable of showing genuine emotion and warm melodies that can stand up repeated listens, showing that the strengths of My Best Fiend exist in the songs themselves, not the atmosphere. That is not to say that their debut, In Ghostlike Fading lacks an alluring atmosphere; on the contrary, the ethereal keyboard lines and the chemistry between the two guitars are able to trap a listener within the album right from the start, and it rarely lets you stray too far from the music. The first two tracks are fairly standard fare: The beginning is, yes, dreamy, in tone, but contains a texture that is surprisingly lucid; the chorus is bigger and slightly explosive, and the bridge is, first and foremost, an opportunity for a guitar solo, not a spacey display of white-noise or layers of instruments.
It's not usually a good sign when being from Brooklyn is a new band's major talking point. And even if Warp is still mostly considered a forward-thinking electronic label, it shouldn't be much of shock when they release something doesn't sound exactly like Autechre-- see Grizzly Bear, Born Ruffians, Maximo Park. But this Bushwick-via-Philly quintet's debut album somehow manages to exist in both of those realms.
There’s a real millennial feel to the debut from these Brooklynites – and we don’t mean they’re all angsty about the Y2K bug and nu-metal. No, the tousled five-piece’s epic harks back to ’90s psych Americana – the vocals of Fred Coldwell, from the same school [a]The Flaming Lips[/a]’ Wayne Coyne attended, are bathed in the grand atmosphere that mid-period Mercury Rev so excelled at creating. ‘Jesus Christ’ and the title track, shrouded in reverb, are standouts, but elsewhere, as on the overwrought ‘One Velvet Day’, [a]My Best Fiend[/a] only channel the most tedious moments of [a]Spiritualized[/a].
The first early glimpses of My Best Fiend promised a “spacious, dreamlike world” that their singles had yet to fully reveal. That all changes with their debut, In Ghostlike Fading, as the Brooklyn five-piece unveil an understated form of rock that breaks from the mold of what’s expected of a typical Warp signee. An album of reverent fantasies and atmospheric ballads, their dreamlike world is one you’ll be reluctant to wake from.
To its credit, 'Higher Palms’ makes for a promising start to the debut album from newest guitar-act-on-Warp My Best Fiend. Opening with a lilting riff, the guitars intertwine with the keys beautifully, creating a nice bedrock upon which My Best Fiend develop a strong melody and shifting textures. The chorus has punch, the song has structure, the arrangement has dynamic - it’s no bad opening to In Ghostlike Fading, and deserving of the early attention it garnered for the Brooklyn five piece.
Following the same trajectory that helped Seattle's Sub Pop label stay relevant after the grunge scene died, Sheffield's Warp has, of late, built an impressive roster of non-electronic artists. Keeping company with guitar-touting labelmates Grizzly Bear, Born Ruffians and Battles are recent signees My Best Fiend. After last year's (much-too-much) Spiritualized-esque EP, Jesus Christ, the Brooklyn quintet have expanded their palette on their debut full-length, In Ghostlike Fading.