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Flare

Definitive

(Mother West; US: 6 Nov 2001)

Although intended as a preview for Flare’s upcoming album, the three-song Definitive is more of a tease. Under the guidance of LD Beghtol, whose compassionate voice Stephin Merritt brought to The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, Flare has crafted music of sensitive depth on Definitive. Flare manages to cover a wide range of emotions in fewer than 15 minutes while giving insight to its sound and style. Definitive may only be three songs, but it is three songs you can’t stop listening to as they make you crave more.


The title track, “Definitive”, is built like the perfect twee pop song—four and half minutes of twinkling tambourines, two chords played on acoustic guitars, and Beghtol’s tenor wavering with understanding as he sings lyrics like “You never ask for much, just books and a fire and a tire swing”. Flare’s passion and humor is delivered with flawless indie-rock polish on “Definitive” and this song alone is enough to win over any listener. Even if Definitive just had this one track alone, it would be worth it.


Still, in a very different way than “Definitive”, “Course” is the standout track here. Shifting from the airiness of the first song, “Course” takes on a melancholy claustrophobia as Beghtol mourns plaintively over lamenting violins and sparse and haunted guitars. With Beghtol’s voice always in absolute control while still conveying his pain and the extended instrumental breaks in “Course”, the entire effect is that of late-night sorrow and loneliness. While “Definitive” may have showcased Flare’s ability at creating playful indie-pop songs, “Course” reveals Flare’s true talent lies in shaping nimble dirge-like songs that are as distressing as they are beautiful.


Definitive closes with a charming cover of Gene Autry’s “You’re the Only Star (in My Blue Heaven)” that sounds as if it was recorded on a home tape recorder. Accompanied only by a ukulele, Beghtol’s voice shines as he sighs his way through the song. After the sadness of “Course”, “You’re the Only Star” comes as a welcome reprieve and closes the single on an uplifting note.


After about two and half minutes of silence, a snippet of an echoing, church-music inspired version of “Definitive” plays for about a minute. Why this was included, it’s hard to say since it adds little to the effect of the single as a whole. Still, Flare seems to be trying to give listeners just a little something extra, and the effort is appreciated.


Definitive is satisfying, but it still gives just enough to entice listeners into wanting more. After hearing it once, listeners are going to do everything in their power to find out how they can get more music by Flare. With just one album and one EP other than Definitive to its name, even that may not be enough. Still, while waiting for Flare’s upcoming album, Definitive does provide enough solace to keep listeners gratified in the meantime.

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By Robert Hickey
25 Jun 2003
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