Fol Chen: Part II: The New December

Fol Chen's blips have become blippier, their pop moments have grown poppier, and their clashes with noise have gotten noisier on the band's second release.

Fol Chen

Part II: The New December

Label: Asthmatic Kitty
US Release Date: 2010-07-06
UK Release Date: 2010-06-14
Label website
Artist website

Fol Chen is not just another electro-pop band, nor another electro-pop-cum-noise band. They are an electro-art-pop-noise-lite-whateverhaveyou band with a concept. In a continuation from last year's debut, Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made, their tale of an ongoing battle with Vladimir Nabokov creation John Shade and a language-eating virus, and the subsequent apocalypse, continues to unfold. Not much progression should be expected from such a blatant continuation as Part II: The New December, but in the short time that has passed, Fol Chen's blips have become blippier, their pop moments have grown poppier, and their clashes with noise have gotten noisier. Although the concept is valiantly overblown, the journey it takes a listener on is mostly enjoyable.

It can be argued that Part I's highlight was the sleazy goofy single "Cable TV". With it, and without the artifice of a concept weighing it down, Fol Chen revealed their secret weapon of multi-instrumentalist and sometime vocalist Melissa Thorne. Thorne possesses neither a distinct nor full-bodied voice, but something about its detached creepiness endeared long after the song concluded. On Part II's "In Ruins", Thorne, or perhaps another female Fol Chen cohort (most of Fol Chen's members like to use stage names or remain anonymous) layers the apocalyptic come-ons over dainty electro beats and arises just as saucy as any pop diva of the moment.

After that early highlight, Part II dips and rises. It should not be surprising that the other standout tracks are "Adeline (You Always Look So Bored)", where detached yet seductive female coos again step to the forefront, and "C/U", a successful exercise in R&B with a smooth chorus that would be quite at home on mainstream radio. Elsewhere, songs are percussive, wordless, or both, and contain just the faintest of hooks. On tracks such as "Men, Beasts, or Houses", acoustic and percussive elements intermingle to produce a heady sonic assault. As befitting of an album that deals in part with a language-eating virus, the device of using barely discernible lyrics works well. Songs such as "This Is Where the Road Belongs" don't fare as successfully, with repetition wearing the hooks down to just a vague memorability. Part II's less poppy endeavors need not be classified as failures, but after a listener hears what Fol Chen can do as a pop band, their artier stabs can leave one feeling a little vacant.

Although genre-jumping bands who employ "electro" elements to their approach seem to stick around for a shorter period than those who do not, Fol Chen certainly show signs of brightness. They already have fans in Liars, a band that doesn't defy genres to the same extent, but one that is highly capable of mutating its sound. Fol Chen's more experimental side should not be shut off completely, it would just be nice if they contributed some more of their energy toward further sharpening their killer pop hooks and R&B grooves. Doing so could see them laying waste to not just John Shade and language viruses, but to the charts as well.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.