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. By contrast, only a few tracks on Megafaun deviate from an otherwise streamlined whole.
Megafaun’s experimentation does emerge subtly during each song and over the course of the album. Violin twitters punctuate “Second Friend”, and “These Words” begins with a splash and builds to a cacophony of band member Joe Westerlund’s field recordings in rural North Carolina and Bali. The burbling vocals on “Serene Return”, which sound like the band members coming up for air, and the ambient, rounded static of “Postscript” both exemplify how Megafaun’s freak folk has become more introspective than abrasive.
Rather than catching the listener’s ear with arrhythmic atonality, Megafaun’s less conventional tracks soften around the edges to blend in with the rest of the album. “Serene Return” bleeds seamlessly into the slow, feathery “You Are the Light”, and the explosive drum rolls and horns that begin the instrumental “Isadora” evolve into discernible phrases enunciated with violins and plucked strings. Even the eight-and-a-half-minute “Get Right” only lets the screeching electric guitars loose within the song’s rhythmic parameters.
Megafaun shines the brightest on thematic tracks like “Scorned”, in which you can practically feel the dust clouds after each harmonica blast and the heat shimmering in the vibrating background guitars. Closer “Everything We’re Headed For” features the surprisingly, almost painfully, soulful vocals of the band with female vocalist Frazey Ford of The Be Good Tanyas. The track, which echoes ’70s gospel rock, is a fitting end to Megafaun’s latest installment of their constantly evolving brand of folk.
Essential Tracks: “Scorned”, “Everything We’re Headed For”, and “Resurrection”