The Fresh And Onlys House Of Spirits on LP + Download
"We make albums to be heard as albums,” says Tim Cohen. “We always toil over the sequencing and slight pauses.” House of Spirits, The Fresh & Onlys’ fifth album since 2008, testifies to their rigorous full-length approach. Their most adventurous outing yet, House of Spirits devotes its A-side to the character of dreams. Written partly during his stay at an isolated horse ranch in Arizona with only a guitar, Korg keyboard and drum machine, Cohen focused the album’s lyrics on firmer narratives than on past material, but his imagery veers towards absurdity, reflecting the unreliable visions culled from his nightly subconscious activity.
The album’s latter half finds his speaker awoken, resolute and lucid. All throughout, Cohen says the album grapples with the “idea that home is where your feet are.” While still possessing the impeccable pop faculties displayed on Long Slow Dance and Soothsayer, The Fresh & Onlys also deal experimental atmospherics and drum-machine anchored ballads like never heard from the group before. “The things I remember from dreams are when something is slightly off. You’re in your house but realize suddenly that it’s not yours,” says Cohen. In that sense, album opener “Home is Where?” is a statement of the album’s intent. When Cohen’s speaker notices a “bowl full of eyes on the floor,” or “cauldron of hearts on the stove” during his comforting walk through “the good life,” the brisk but nuanced track morphs into a surrealist nightmare.
As guitarist Wymond Miles says of House of Spirits, “We wanted to honor the mystery that the desert gave to Tim’s songs.” The seasoned ensemble’s fiery feel and careful arrangements run throughout, but it also privileges The Fresh & Onlys’ experimental tendencies. There’s violent, churning guitar noise between gospel-like vocal interplay for “Bells of Paonia” and an ominous drum machine pulse underpins the unsettling finale, “Madness,” a track that inspired Miles to throttle his guitar with a power drill in the studio for what he calls “a sort of Einstürzende Neubauten moment.”
As Cohen relishes mystery, camps out in dreams and hones his singular approach to glistening pop with sinister undertones, perhaps “Madness” speaks best to the Fresh & Onlys’ essence. As Cohen puts it in the track, “So, madness has a heart / Letting me rejoice / In the most peculiar things.”
The Fresh And Onlys House Of Spirits Track Listing:
1. Home is Where?
2. Who Let the Devil
3. Bells of Paonia
4. Animal of One
5. I'm Awake
7. April Fools