In 2010, at Austin‘s famous SXSW festival, Queens band Freelance Whales were one of the big draws, generating a lot of buzz and performing at least six different shows in a four-day period, most of which were packed regardless of the venue. The band have been touring like crazy ever since the release of their almost famous debut album, Weathervanes, which was first self-released in October of 2009, and later re-released by Frenchkiss and Mom + Pop on April 27, 2010, just a month after the band’s revered appearance at SXSW. But in the past year, they’ve found time away from touring to work on their sophomore album, Diluvia, which was officially released on Tuesday.
The first single from the much anticipated album, “Dig Into Waves,” starts off sounding like a different band than the one we all got to know in 2009 and 2010 via songs like “Generator First Floor,” the latter of which was used by Twitter, in ads for the Chevy Volt and on the TV series Chuck. But mid-way through “Dig Into Waves,” where the track mellows out, and Judah Dadone‘s vocals overpower the high-pitched synths that dominate much of the song musically, it then becomes obvious to fans that it’s Freelance Whales. The fact that “Dig Into Waves” has an overall more crisp and vibrant sound – which is apparent all through Diluvia – than the band’s 2009 songs is a good thing because it shows the band progressing and taking chances, rather than playing it safe and essentially making a Vol. 2 of the debut, an approach many bands employ after the rush of popularity and praise following a successful debut.
Interesting, Dadone said that much of the inspiration for the album came from the cult film, The Neverending Story. Freelance Whale’s sophomore LP is oozing with synth-heavy, artfully composed musical textures and vocal and musical harmonies, melodies and rhythms that are masterfully mixed, and yet still sound free-flowing enough to avoid the blunders of over-production or the sense that the album was merely a response to capitalize on the band’s early popularity. The craftsmanship of their work on Diluvia further elevates the band within the hierarchy of the orchestral pop sub-genre of indie rock music where artists like Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire have reigned supreme for years.
The album’s second single, and fifth track, “Locked Out,” almost sounds like a hybrid Christmas indie pop song on first spin – just without the wintery, religious or holiday lyrics. Yet on subsequent spins, the richly layered infusions of bells, horns and swirls of luminescent synth keys reveal a song that is dreamy, ethereal and celestial, and as many of the band’s songs, owes a good deal of its appeal to Dadone’s wonderfully soft vocals.
The fourth track on album, “Spitting Image,” is one of the clear highlights of the album. Multi-instrumentalist Doris Cellar, who plays bass, harmonium, glockenspiel and synths, takes the lead on vocals. Along with Cellar’s impressive vocal skills, a driving, crisp rhythm, lush melodies basking in bliss soaked synth riffs, and a catchy, steady beat, gives “Spitting Image” all of the markings of an indie pop hit.
Other album highlights include “Land Features,” “The Nothing,” and “Follow Through,” among others, give the band plenty of fresh material to take on the road.