CD Review: Fauxbois “Carry On”

Fauxbois began as a bedroom folk project when chief songwriter Brian Mayer (originally from Boise, Idaho) started writing songs in his Brooklyn apartment in 2000. After playing solo and with various lineups for a while, he began recording in 2007 with Portland musicians Point Juncture WA. He recruited Caleb and Tori McKim, Scott and Kate Seward, Shaun King and Trevor Kamplaign and the band morphed into Fauxbois in 2009. They released Carry On on Spark and Shine Records last fall.

When I first heard the title track off Fauxbois’s Carry On, I was struck by the resemblance to Built to Spill, in terms of vocals and guitar style – particularly the band’s earlier recordings like There’s Nothing Wrong With Love from 1994. Carry On also sounds like a pared down, minimalist version of Built to Spill’s Keep It Like a Secret from 1997. This similarity is not entirely surprising, considering the band toured with Built to Spill last summer and appeared on the Rotating Tongues 2 compilation alongside Boise locals such as Doug Martsch (Built to Spill) and Finn Riggins. The tracks where the Built to Spill comparison is most valid are the ballads “Remember February” and “Shadowboxing.”Fauxbois’ vocals are pleasant and emotive and the riffs offer a good balance of catchiness, clarity and mild distortion. There is something very wholesome about their sound. Particularly when the multiple backing vocals enter at the end of “Carry On.” This song leads me to believe Fauxbois will also appeal to fans of Canadian bands The Got to Get Got and Germans.

Simple vocals on the slow “Dry Into Dust” remind me of early Nada Surf and ’90s East Coast rock like the Superfriendz, Thrush Hermit and Eric’s Trip. The intro to the track is akin to early Modest Mouse, playing with time signatures and then breaking into a reverberating, syrupy solo with melodic chords.

There are plenty of soft, smooth, pared down ballads, but distorted riffs are strewn throughout. “Hearts a Radio” features a straightforward acoustic riff and tender vocals, a sentimental country-ish, folk song reminiscent of Joel Plaskett. In terms of the folkier tracks, I particularly like the overlapping vocal harmonies in the latter half of “Ghosts and Fireflies.”

“Watery Eyes Pt. 1” is Elliott Smith-esque with basic vocals, acoustic guitar and a bit of accordion. Later, truly folky, sweet female vocals enter and the song travels out on synths. Part two of the track is strongest when it remains instrumental, featuring all dark, low sounds like the soundtrack to a ’70s sci-fi movie, but the style of the female vocals on this track doesn’t quite fit the vibe of the music.

“Teleportation” is one of the more deviant tracks on the album that moves Fauxbois’ sound into a more modern place. Starting with fuzzy guitars and vocals reminiscent of Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, it also reminds me of Canadian one-album wonder, Transistor Transistor. Fauxbois describes this track as an “indie pop song” and though I wouldn’t go that far, it is definitely one of the most original tracks on the album — a neat, somewhat irregular, still slow song, but more lively and featuring synth-y sounding vocals a la Rentals at the start, and distant guitar and drum beats.

Fauxbois’s Carry On is a mellow album of simple folk sensibilities, tinged with the essence of a number of artists I’ve enjoyed in the past. The album is its best, however, when it tries to break this mould and veer off into something more inventive.

Rating: 8 / 10

For all the latest on Fauxbois: http://www.myspace.com/fauxboisidaho