Three years ago, indie band Frederick the Younger released their debut album, Human Child. It was, as we said at the time, a “near-masterpiece of eclectism”. To call it diverse or varied would be an understatement, as the quartet delivered a kaleidoscope of rock. Psychedelic and blues-rock, indie rock, southern rock, classic rock, and krautorock (plus a splash of new wave) were woven together into one stupendous record. After a couple of changes to the lineup, the Louisville-based quartet return with their new EP, Fever.
Unlike their initial full-length, Fever is much more linear in its sound. Their ambition, though, is still grand, as they aim to modernize ’70s psychedelic pop. The result is a record that equals the excellence of their debut and approaches the retro-brilliance of Sunflower Bean. And through the trippy soundscapes, they show us the way through the darkness.
The record’s first two songs immediately displays the band’s growth and artistry. Opener “Back to the Wall” is a graceful and stirring number that is both breathtaking and worthy of uninterrupted shoulder shimmying. Co-founder and principal front-person Jenni Cochran’s calm, saccharine vocals, which bear a resemblance to Chrissie Hynde, draw the listener in. Her story of being trapped by an ultimatum, however, keeps one’s attention transfixed on her voice. She eloquently articulates her struggle:
“Baby, I’ve been driving all night and I’ve been sleeping all day.
Slipped into the cracks of my mind, I just want you to stay.
Baby, I’ve been driving all night and I’ve been sleeping all day.
Running from the loops in my mind, some things never change.”
Frederick the Younger ramp up the energy and the addictive qualities on “Backyard Man”. The track is made to be heard in an oversized club with the disco ball shooting streams of endless colour. Only in such a place can people dance, do air guitars to the fuzzy riffs, and throw their arms up in the air during the chorus. Cochran playfully sings on this song about togetherness:
“Help me! I’m feeling a little bit lonely.
I’m sorry if I seem a little mean, babe.
I just want to know you’re there.”
Dancing shoes are also required on the bopping “High Alone”, where co-founder and guitarist Aaron Craker assumes the role as lead vocalist. The bass line throbs while his lyrics are full of poetic irony. In describing his approach to life, Craker smartly says, “I can see the big picture, and he turned and said, ‘I’m a visual learner'”. In the next breath, he sings, “It’s a game that we try to make out with”, which is spot on.
Even in the quieter moments Frederick the Younger still enthrall. The tranquil “Deepest Blue” is like a gentle breeze on an autumn day, and it possesses the qualities of a Carpenters’ song. As Craker’s guitar shimmers in the background, Cochran reveals some of her regrets and ponders the possibilities if she decided a different path. On the closer “Erased”, Craker shares a moment of grief. He coolly advises himself that “they will all be erased in time. It will all be erased in time. Let it go.”
“Something Real”, though, is the crown jewel of the band’s softer fare. Its atmosphere is dreamy and intoxicating, and it feels like a trip into a sublime, unknown place. Despite the exotic dreamscape the band paints, Cochran articulates our emotions with this track – “I’ve been waiting all my life to find something real”. Maybe all we need is a little imagination to find what we’ve long searched for, and Frederick the Younger have pointed us in the right direction with another sterling little record.
The band comprises Jenni Cochran (vocals/keys), Aaron Craker (piano/guitar/vocals), Shelley Anderson (bass/vocals), and Meg Samples (drums).
Fever is out now on sonaBLAST! Records.
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