Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Megafaun - Megafaun (2011)

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While North Carolina trio Megafaun has proudly accepted their freak folk label time and time again, on their fourth and latest album they shy away from it for what turns out to be the better. Megafaun is far more intimate than any of the album’s that preceded it, perhaps due to its main inspiration coming from music the band grew up with like Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne, and Paul McCartney. Instead Megafaun’s experimentation takes the form of its innovative arrangements like in “Isadora” with its distinctive pseudo-Latin flavor gained from brass and vibraphone.

And yet at no time does the album sound uncharacteristic of Megafaun, there’s still the certain jam-band quality that pervades the best Megafaun tracks (“Get Right”). Rather there’s a certain vulnerability that the band hasn’t showed before - particular in ballads “Hope You Know” and “Kill the Horns”. Megafaun’s trademark quirk isn’t completely expunged from the album: “These Words” which uses field recordings of a Balinese gamelan and rural sounds recorded by Joe Westerlund or the electronic jumble of “Serene Return” are the proof and manage to fit in with the other material quite well.

Megafaun is one of those rare bands that are not only able to release a new record on a yearly basis but also have each record be significantly better than the last. Their self-titled release is by far their best yet. Mature and finely developed but also bold and out there, it’s an album where there’s no shortage of risk-taking but also where the band really come into their own as songwriters. On Megafaun, perhaps for the first time in all four records, you are truly drawn to the lyrics as the emotions they conjure drive the songs.

The album is currently streaming at Rolling Stone here.

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