Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Album Review: Falling Through April - Zodiac

Everyone has certain things, when it comes to music, they could be considered suckers for. Myself, I fall into that category when it comes to ballads, Steinman-esque music, and also female fronted pop/rock bands. Recent years have brought a string of them, many of which I have liked and raved about. We've had great albums from Halestorm, Jasmine Cain, The Warning, Forever Still, and Shiverburn (who nearly won Album Of The Year from me). So when a new year is kicking off, and one of the first albums I'm given a chance to listen to for this blank slate falls into that category, I am a happy camper.

Falling Through April keeps things short and simple, with nine tracks (the tenth being an acoustic version of an album track) often not hitting the three minute mark. They have taken the course of writing tight pop songs that don't waste any time with rock and roll indulgences. That is a strategy that both works and doesn't work, depending on how you want to view their potential career arc.

On the one hand, they are doing something very smart by playing into the attention span of modern listeners. Their target audience is largely younger than I am (and no, I'm not that old), and lives in the streaming world. For those purposes, hitting listeners with the hooks and getting out quick makes all the sense in the world. They don't bother with stretching the songs out so everyone can get their moment to shine. The band is clearly focused on serving the songs, which means putting Mikaela Salazar's vocals and hooks at the forefront. It works, since these songs are slick numbers that deliver a brand of alternative/pop that used to be quite popular, and always sounds good when it's done well. It is here.

On the other hand, there's the question about the future of the band. While these songs are sharply written and highly enjoyable, there's also the issue of the record being short, and what that means. These nine original songs won't hit half an hour, which can be a problem if the band is going to try to be a touring workhorse. The brevity of the music isn't going to help fill up a 45-60 minute slot on stage.

Getting back to the music, Falling Through April's sound is that bouncy brand of alternative/pop that feels young and vibrant, even when the music slows for dramatic effect. "With You In Mind" is a quasi-ballad that makes the most overly emotional appeal of the bunch, but it avoids being maudlin or dragging down the energy. That's actually a difficult trick to pull off, so their success is commendable.

How much you enjoy "Zodiac" is going to depend on whether or not you like this style of music. If you grew up loving early Paramore, this is an easy recommendation. Likewise, if you simply like both the hooks of pop and the energy and sound of rock and roll guitars, Falling Through April are delivering for you. I know there are a lot of people for whom the word 'pop' is almost a slur. They won't be won over by this record, but the rest of us will get a fun collection of songs that is a bright diversion on what can be depressing winter days.

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