Fanshaw – [Album]

Tuesday, 02 February 2010

Funny thing about the stylistic disparity that accompanies gender in rock n' roll, while men will curse and bitch an unhinged blue streak about the injustices perpetrated on them by the fairer sex and done so with platinum-coated success for decades (just look what it did for Disturbed), women have simply endured the trespasses and foibles of men – either because convention dictates it or the option of playing the femme fatale is just more appealing than the angry alternative. At first glance, Fanshaw singer Olivia Fetherstonhaugh is just the same as that convention has upheld on her debut album – Dark Eyes regularly seems to get misty over heartache – but only the show that the singer has placed on the proceedings; in fact, the album proves to be much darker and angrier when one scratches through the surface. There are moments here when the album is positively vengeful, in fact.

It's after Fetherstonhaugh sets the tone for Dark Eyes with the breathy vocal percussion of “Diana” and listeners get comfortable with what they assume will be another conventional run that the she begins to transfigure the script into something far more foreboding. Amid sinewy and simple, clean electric guitar figures (think of an Exile-era Liz Phair sitting in with Carolyn Mark and you're on the right track), Fetherstonhaugh sings sweetly and instills a sense of tranquility that's most endearing – but what surfaces is a terrifying collection of obsessions on closer listening. Songs like “Vegas” (check the lyrics – “You said you found a better woman/I don't see how that makes it over/Life is beautiful anything could happen/she might die at any moment”), “Paperboy” (“I kept his portrait in my dress”), the title track (“Don't give her money, understand hy she lies”) and “Strong Hips” (I'm not the girl you think I am”) all betray an unnerving sense of overbearing psychosis and are very worrisome if there's anything in them that can be believed. Like the eeriest form of sociopath, the singer delivers these lines beautifully but with no real feeling in them and seems to enjoy succoring listeners in for a bit of foul play. Eerier still, the intensity in Fetherstonhaugh's voice and demeanor never increases, decreases or shifts – it's a single-minded drive that is omnipresent and continues even as “Checkerboard fades at the close of the album.

For the weary, as Dark Eyes does fade out, a powerful sense of confusion begins to overtake the minds of those listening. How many were trapped, restrained or held by the singer along the way through Dark Eyes' nine tracks? The demeanor of both the songs and the singer is ice cold here so those listeners left inside may never be freed, but those that do make it out will find themselves wondering what will come next from Fanshaw. What face will the singer wear next time? How many souls will she ensnare with her siren songs? Only time and future releases will tell.



Fanshaw – “Strong Hips” – Dark Eyes


Dark Eyes
comes out on February 9, 2010. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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