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The End of the World

French Exit

(Pretty Activity; US: 4 Nov 2008; UK: Available as import)

At first listen, French Exit has such a full-blooded sound that it’s hard to believe that the End of the World is just a duo. Singing drummer Stefan Marolachakis and guitarist Benjamin Smith have produced a pop record pulsing with life from beginning to end. But these sturdy tracks are much more straightforward and stripped-down that they first seem. Their big sound comes in backing each other up, filling in each other’s holes. On “Jody”, Marolachakis rides the snare under Smith’s ringing guitar chords. Smith fills the space in the simple drums on “I Don’t Wanna Lose” with chunky, classic rock riffs. On “Favorite Time of Year”, Smith’s guitar lilts behind the vocals, giving them an added layer of depth. Not that they need it. What pushes these catchy tracks over the top are Marolachakis’ honeyed vocals. They draw you in and capture you as he seems to effortlessly deliver crisp melodies, one after the other. French Exit starts strong and never lets up. It’s a strong and self-assured offering of songs that are honest, free of pretense, and full of hooks that are tough to shake once they’ve got a hold of you. This album would be an accomplishment for a band of six. So the fact that just two people can make a sound this full and invigorating makes French Exit one of the great hidden gems in music today.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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