Firekites - The Bowery

Chris Tapley 06/11/2009

Rating: 5/5

There are some records which you just know you're going to like, that even by way of outward appearances just seem to have something a bit special. There's an understated charm to the artwork for Firekites debut album which I instantly warmed to, even more so upon opening the inlay to find an image of the band gazing vacantly out from a darkened stage.

Thankfully the content doesn't disappoint, and from the very first notes this is an album bursting with heart. Delivering a mixture of passionate stripped back folk and languid electronica mixed perfectly with lush strings and fragile vocals. Highlights are too many to pick between but the first of the instrumental tracks Paris acts as a good gauge of the albums holding power, even once the vocals are stripped away the band manage to hold attention. The overlapping picked acoustic guitar lines and the stuttering percussion mix with swells of dark synth to give the track a vast expansive feel and it sounds like the soundtrack to a road trip down a seemingly endless road through blustering winds and torrential rain.

The intersecting guitars are the beating heart of the album, hanging everything together they sound so crisp and clean that on the few occasions they're temporarily drowned in swathes of feedback you feel it wash over you, and it's instantly warming. This is definitely an album best enjoyed in the cold of autumn. As it progresses though we seem to be plunged deeper in to the darkness of winter with the increased appearance of fuzzy electronics and rumbling bass lines, all of which is made even more enthralling when placed next to the largely acoustic nature of the album's opening half.

Vocals on an album like this can be hard to get right but Firekites have nailed it, the soft drawl of both vocalists lends itself to studious listening; the best example perhaps being Jane Tyrell's vocals on Another State which are reminiscent of Joan Wasser. The undoubted highlight though is the album's centre point By Night. From the opening handclaps to the closing with it's intersecting lush strings and male/female vocals with the repeated refrain of 'say you'll make it home safe' is probably my favourite 90 seconds of sound that I've heard this year. It's utterly stunning.

This will definitely be making my top three records of 2009. It has absolutely everything that I could want from an album; it's introverted, it's expansive, it's chilling, it's heart-warming, it's romantic, it's misanthropic, it's geeky, it's effortlessly cool. The Bowery is undoubtedly this year's autumnal masterpiece.