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Felix

Oh Holy Molar

(Kranky; US: 23 Apr 2012; UK: 23 Apr 2012)

Felix offer up some memorable melancholy on their latest, Oh Holy Molar.

There’s always a certain type of band that’s had to endure the expectation drop-off and after a while there were more buzz bands that fell prey to that drop-off instead of surpassing it. So, thanks be to Felix for not becoming another faceless band that set high expectations with their first record only to suffer backlash on their second. Part of it may be due to the fact that their first record wasn’t as heavily praised and scrutinized as some are but it’s more than likely mostly due to the band taking the time and care to develop. Too often buzzed-about bands get rushed into recording and try to take developmental shortcuts, which is far from the case with Oh Holy Molar.


For one, Oh Holy Molar is actually a stronger record than You Are the One I Pick. There’s a greater sense of completion and the band seems to have recognized their strongest elements and brought them to the forefront. Starting with the moment that “The Bells” pulls the listener in with its lilting piano line, Oh Holy Molar never fails to be less than enticing. Everything manages to come together and, once again, paints Felix as an expansive cousin to Dark Dark Dark. “Sunday Night” only continues to impress with its continuous rise and fall and Lucinda Chua’s smoky vocals, one of the bands strongest assets. Though the sound doesn’t shift much from song to song, it works wonderfully and “Sunday Night” is one of the best examples of their style. Simplistic piano, drums, and vocals are nearly always at the forefront with the guitar acting as an almost ambient instrument. It’s an intriguingly minimalist take but the band coaxes soft magic out of it.


When Oh Holy Molar hits its mid-section, its main crack begins to show—with songs this meditative and relatively melancholy it can feel like a lot to sit through for one listen. Fortunately the songwriting is so consistently excellent throughout Oh Holy Molar that it comes close to avoiding feeling as long as it is. In the long run, it’s noticeable enough to the point of wishing a song or two would’ve been taken off of the 13 song tracklist. However, the record does manage to absolve that issue partially by virtue of sequencing. Every song on Oh Holy Molar feels perfectly in place and never once feels out of step, it just manages to over-extend itself. That’s not to take anything away from the mid-section, though, because the pairing of “Blessing Part I” and “Blessing Part II” constitutes one of the records absolute best (and most haunting) moments.


After that powerhouse combination, the band enters the last stretch of the record with “Rites” which stands out as another easy album highlight. While both “Blessing"s highlight what the band can do, “Rites” nods at what they may be able to do, which is always infinitely more exciting. “Rites” is an atmospheric guitar-led piece that maintains an eerie tension as it progresses and utilizes Chua’s vocals to stunning effect. It’s an extremely moody piece that shows Felix can get a little darker when they want to. Another thing that “Rites” manages to do is distract from the records length by being so engaging. “Who Will Pity the Poor Fool?” almost stands up as well and features a beautiful and subtle string arrangement that helps elevate the song to memorable heights.


Oh Holy Molar stumbles a bit with “Pretty Girls” before serving up two of the most beautiful and hushed songs I’ve heard to come out of this year with “Practising Magic” and “Little Biscuit”. Both tracks are almost entirely piano and vocal tracks, with the former offering some brilliant occasional accompaniment from other instruments leading up to its final minute when the drums finally emerge as a consistent instrument. Then “Little Biscuit” hits and all but floats out of the speakers. It’s Oh Holy Molar‘s starkest moment and makes for an extremely effective closer. “Little Biscuit” also presents a very good case for how to write incredible songs in a minimalist format. All the way through, it’s piano and vocals and a section where the vocals are brilliantly layered and resemble a gorgeous orchestral ensemble.


While not all of Oh Holy Molar is as brilliant as its closing moment, much of it comes fairly close. There are times when it feels a little one-note but quickly derails those thoughts with songs like “Rites”. There’s not a lot of pop music that’s this patient anymore so their take on the genre is an admirable one and one they’ve proven they can work wonders with. Oh Holy Molar probably isn’t going to be any major publications record of the year but I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few people end up holding it up as theirs. Oh Holy Molar, if nothing else, is a refreshing reminder that some bands are still taking the times to do things right.

Rating:

Steven is a writer, musician, and filmmaker from Wisconsin who has spent his fair share of time in the entertainment trenches. He frequently contributes reviews and interviews to Playground Misnomer, which can be accessed here: http://www.playgroundmisnomer.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @unbusyinwi.


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28 Apr 2010
Felix's debut features the considerable songwriting talents of Lucinda Chua, though they are sometimes overshadowed by the album's tendency toward post-rock excess.
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