On their website, Berlin-based bedroom pop trio Fenster confess to recording their debut full-length, Bones, before the band had even played a live show together. It does feel like an album that was created with little outside influence, unfettered and very intimate. Some outside feedback might have helped make a more cohesive long-player, but there are more than a few songs worth hearing.
Actually, there’s a lot to like on Bones. It starts off upbeat, with the Jonathan Jarzyna-led Oh Canyon, propelled by a pulsing electric organ and a clattering tambourine, rolling into the wistful, Fleet Foxes-esque Fantasy II. The band’s female component, JJ Weihl, takes over vocals on White to Red, a moody, warm piece of dream pop. Lyrically, it’s all pretty unusual and interesting; one highlight is 2.7 XO 17, a surreal and low-key song that (might be) about an unkillable robot and a lunar amusement park. The album’s title seems to come from a line in Gravediggers, a spooky number where they split the vocals over gently thumping percussion.
There’s a streak of more sparse, down-tempo songs at the album’s midpoint, particularly The Hunter and Fisherman, that feel more like a breakaway than another step in the record’s progression. Bare-naked vocals and stripped-down instrumentals have their place somewhere, but it’s not smack dab in the center of what was shaping up to be a peppy, poppy record. They’d be easier to take in a different sequencing, perhaps coming after the atmospheric Golden Boy, which features some unsettling, back-masked instrumental work, at Bones‘ tail end.
Bones features too many great tracks to be written off for a stumble in its pacing. Impressive but semi-problematic records like this one are the reason why iTunes lets you set your own track orders.
Essential Tracks: White to Red and 2.7 XO 17