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Music

Fink: Hard Believer

Hard Believer is about the immersive experience that a cohesive record can offer. It's a top-to-bottom, unhurried listen.


Fink

Hard Believer

Label: R'COUP'D
US Release Date: 14 July 2014
UK Release Date: 14 July 2014
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iTunes

There's been quite a bit of talk that Fink's Hard Believer doesn't deliver on the artistic promise made by 2011's Perfect Darkness. But that would be to assume that each subsequent album in an artist's catalog is meant as a follow-on. Why not let each be what it wants to be... what it is? Hard Believer charts a course unto its own as a boozy, bluesy collection that forgoes the electronic flourishes of its predecessor in favor of a more organic approach replete with fuzzy guitars and insistent drums. Still, Fink sets this one to a slow, sensual burn. There's nowhere to go but in, and there's no rush to get there.

Hard Believer seems to be about the immersive experience that a cohesive record can offer. It's a top-to-bottom, unhurried listen that works just as well on the floor with a spliff as it does in bed with a lover. Even the builds of “Green and the Blue”, “White Flag”, and “Pilgrim” are stoney enough to not pull the listener too far out of their sway. They are calculated risks, willing to sacrifice frenetic energy for impassioned urgency.

Once past that block, the middle swath of Hard Believer — from “Two Days Later” to “Looking Too Closely” — has the effect of a musically induced trance. The atmospheric vibe of “Two Days Later” nails Fink's easy-on-the-ear signature mix of one part saunter, one part swagger. Then, on the spare opening and middle stanzas of “Shakespeare”, just an acoustic guitar and Fin Greenall's soulfully casual voice hold the space until the rest of the band adds more breadth and depth to the song's architecture. Here, at least, comparisons to Jack Johnson are forced to give way to Greenall's closer kinship with Citizen Cope. Bristol accent aside, Greenall and Cope share a fondness for a decidedly laissez-faire approach to diction that lends a casual air when that is what's called for. Such is the case with “Shakespeare”, despite the fact that Christopher Marlowe might well be rolling in his grave: “Oh, Romeo. Oh, Romeo. He thinks it's a love thing, all masks and kisses from the balcony. It's deeper than that, though. It's a fucking tragedy.”

The final two tracks, “Too Late” and “Falling”, are the weakest links of the chain. But, by then, it's game over anyway; the listener's die has been previously cast. Getting lost in the measured melancholy of Hard Believer doesn't take much effort at all. And that's the point — a point made repeatedly throughout the set. Just lie back and let Fink do all the work here.

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Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

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With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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