Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Friend Roulette - I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head (2013)
Since my discovery of Brooklyn avant pop sextet Friend Roulette two years ago, they've consistently and constantly promised their debut full length was on the horizon. Now, after numerous setbacks and pushbacks, I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head is out about 3 years since it's initial recording.
On I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head, it's almost hard to imagine this is the same band that put out their self-titled EP in early 2011. Sure there's still the swirling, dark-reaching textural play and the intricate layers of "Sailing Song" and the emotive starkness of "Or, Berlin" (which is one of the only EP tracks to make it to the album) but I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head takes all of that to a whole new level. Despite their formidable assemblage of diverse instruments, Friend Roulette's greatest strength has always been in its infectious melodies and while there's no shortage of them on the album, the occasionally insistent, frenetic presentation of them (especially on album opener "She's On Her Own Tonight" or manic fever dream-recalling "I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head") makes them take exceptional note. Rather than letting the melodies casually catch your ear, they seem ready to depart at any moment in favor of a newer perhaps better musical idea. While this might appear sloppy in theory, Friend Roulette are talented music-writers able to stitch their abundance of musical ideas together in a cohesive manner. Instead the impermanence give Friend Roulette an unpredictable edge - you're never quite sure where there songs will end up or how long it will take them to get there and thankfully you don't have to be. Friend Roulette's tracks are equally about the journey as they are their complex presentation.
But the Brooklyn sextet rely on far more than drive-by type tactics, while thriving on manic energy, they are equally f not more impressive when able to slow down. Just look at "Golden" or "Hi, Hello", these rather balladic tracks are able to pack a wallop without moving a mile a minute. There's still an abundance of musical ideas of them, that's for sure, but they develop at similarly organic albeit slower fashion. "Lie" split into two parts, is perhaps the group's biggest departure from what you might've come to expect from them if you haven't seen their live show. It's a tableau that highlights possibly all of the band's strengths, able to take the R&B-esque vibe in a way that seems very much their own. It's the most dressed up of their tracks, ruggedly experimental is sheer amount of things the band have going on, subtly achieved by a climatic, gliding build. After the intense expanses of "Lie (Part 1)", "Lie (Part 2)", and nearly 8 minute shapeshifter "Earthrise", "Or, Berlin" appears to offer a much needed cool down and mellow album closer.
I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head traverses more musical landscapes in one song than most bands do in a whole album if not career. At no point on the album do Friend Roulette ever appear to play it safe or take it easy. It's an album of astounding effort that while not grandstanding enough to attempt to change the way music is made or perceived, is sure to effect any/all of its listeners in a remarkable way. It's an album with a wast array of happenings that are sure to be discovered listen after listen. I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head is a complex and quirky but not inaccessible work of art. It's a labor of love that took three years to properly realize and hopefully comes across. It's a brilliant album from a truly talented group of artists. Here's hoping it properly finds it way out into the world.
You can stream/download the album via Friend Roulette's Bandcamp and order physical copies from Goodnight Records.