FXRRVST - May XXVI
The powerful dramatics of Toronto’s FXRRVST come across effortlessly on each of their debut’s nine songs. May XXVI in a way that will likely prove surprising to many listeners. Matching up the atmospherics of guitar fueled alternative rock with a strongly melodic character unlike anything else currently on the scene. They are just as convincing presenting the lyrical side of their character as they are guitar muscle and their abundance of both qualities is well defined by a production mix that seems to coalesce organically rather than as the result of time consuming effort and thought. The intimacy of these performances is a significant part of their appeal. Many of the tracks prominently feature acoustic guitar and it invariably provides a sturdy spine for Matthew Fuentes’ electric guitar excursions. There’s some flashes of extra instruments, some unexpected, a few nods to ambient textures, and a willingness to slightly subvert listeners’ expectations about melody.
There’s a classic singer/songwriter feel surrounding the opener “Road to Nowhere” spiked with a brisk pace and some unusual rhythms for this kind of material. While there is definitely a sense of the familiar with this song, Forrest and Fuentes bring a fresh quality to the style with this song’s character and Fuentes’ lead guitar has some fiery moments alternating with brief lyrical runs. “Picture Frames” highlights Forrest’s talent for an emotionally affecting lyric. There’s little question that her words pick up added force thanks to the superior phrasing she puts to work in this song and others, but the writing stands on its own as well. “Drown Me” might not be the most uplifting lyrical fare, but coupled with the closest thing on May XXVI to a straight ahead rocker, the rather dark sentiments make for a punchy tune, especially on the chorus. “Tidal Wave” is cut from similar commercially minded cloth, but it sports its appeal without ever pandering to listeners. It’s little wonder that Forrest and Fuentes chose this number to be their first single as it is both representative of the album’s deceptive ambition while also presenting their accessible musical character in the best possible light.
There’s a slightly elegiac quality to the song “Lovely” and the slow wind of both the music and Forrest’s vocal accentuates that vibe, but the following song “Safe House” takes on a much less whimsical tone and, instead, impresses listeners with a restrained, deeply melancholy acoustic guitar line whose repetition will definitely stick with listeners. There’s a basically equal mix of the duo’s folksy, singer/songwriter side and their rock inclinations on the album’s last cut “Roofs”, but they sweeten the pot further with an air of daring quite unlike anything else earlier on the release. This is a restless song, musically, and Forrest’s singing seems genuinely inspired by its creative energy. It ends May XXVI on the best possible note and poises this remarkably satisfying tandem for further future success. FXRRVST (pronounced forest) might seem initially unusual based on their band name alone, but even a cursory examination of their talents points to uniqueness of a whole other order.