[11 December 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming’s first solo record, as Diane Coffee, likes to genre hop in a way that may recall his band’s work. But My Friend Fish digs into spacier, more soulful territory. Fleming proves to be a deft hand at bringing soul and R&B traditions to life alongside pop and rock structures. Opener “Hymn” shifts from syrupy space into a danceable freak-out in the middle that is striking, and sets up the bone-dry thump of “Never Lonely” well. The whole album focuses on the rhythm section, with only spare guitar or keys above it on most tracks, until this lean approach erupts in the space-rock expanse of “Tale of a Dead Dog” or the jangle pop of “That Stupid Girl Who Likes to Run A Lot”. In these moments, it’s Fleming’s irrepressible personality and unhinged singing that carry the day, crafting long-established genres into something distinctly his. Other moments still feel well composed, but are almost too subtle for their own good, as songs like “When It’s Known” or “All The Young Girls” threaten to fade into the background. My Friend Fish has moments that are more about sound than about song, something which take the focus away from Fleming’s commanding presence. But there’s still a lot to like here, especially when the songs become more than just genre exercises and form their own fresh sense of purpose.