Fanfarlo - Reservoir

Jamie Milton 12/05/2009

Rating: 4.5/5

“The kid - “I'm a pilot. It's all I believe in. You can ride on my back."

Ambitious is an understatement. Even as a keen follower of the group for the last couple of years, I never expected to find their debut album so chunky in strings and brass, to an extent where the Arcade Fire comparisons can stream in even easier than they already are. But it's a move that suits the band more than any of their contemporaries, even the giants that they're so often placed next to.

'Reservoir' is the warmest, most childish, most heartfelt album of the year so far. The pendulum swings between the dramatic and heartfelt ('Fire Escape') to the optimistic and fruitful ('Ghosts'), time and time again. A combination of this warmth, courtesy of the diversity of instrumentation, with the childish charms of Simon, their frontman, makes for something almost unique, unheard of at least for the last twelve months. The moment you step into the vast land of this record, you feel nostalgic, in a place where maybe only your mind's travelled to once before - a personal connection with the record surfaces in little more than 2 or 3 listens.

At times the hairs on the back of your neck stand up (see the climatic closing minute of opener, 'I'm A Pilot'), elsewhere you're jumping in a joyous glee ('Harold T. Wilkins's closing segment is equally as quaking), and this is no exaggeration. 'Reservoir' is the perfect companion for lengthy summer walks with friends, a lonely night in or a train journey with a mammoth view of the countryside. It's fitting for any weather that satisfies your needs, no matter where you're going and how long it takes you. It's the occasional inclusion of euphoric climaxes, featuring in nearly half of the songs, that can make you feel almost overwhelmed.

Not one effort dives below the set standard, even if the album's stand-out happens to be the very opening track. It's not a record completely devoid of faults: some might find the vocals underwhelming, the overall feel of the record could be dismissed as 'twee' by a casual listener but once this personal connection we've already established sets in, there's no going back from this. Without doubt, there's room for Arcade Fire comparisons ('Luna' in particular) and Beirut comparisons ('The Walls Are Coming Down'), but there's a completely different aura to 'Reservoir' that you can't really categorise with anything else. Maybe it's the British/Swedish heritage, maybe the recording process added something to the mix but altogether this is as much, if not more uplifting than any of Zach Condon's work to date. It's more streamlined, more suitable for arenas, but it still requires your constant attention up to a certain point. It might not be the most complex record for the last 12 months but don't expect an instantaneous impact.

Not one band can deliver the highs quite to the standard of Fanfarlo. 'Funeral' inspired or not, this album delivers the kind of thrills that only come around once a year. It's the all-or-nothing climaxes such as that in 'Drowning Men' that may as well leave you for dead, completely taken back by the spirit, the triumph that sticks by 'Reservoir' for its entirity.