Fin Greenall's third album of downtempo folk is a guided iTunes missile. Lookout, charts.
When he worked at Catskills Records, I used to get promos from songwriter and occasional deejay Fin Greenall, aka Fink. He had already released his debut for Ninja Tune in 2000, a thoroughly produced electronic hip-hop affair in line with the legendary indie label's expected aesthetic. After he released his DIY sophomore full-length, 2006's Biscuits For Breakfast, the supportive reaction from the market became so overwhelming, he had to quit. Though that was a sad day for my inbox, it turned out to be a fantastic move for Fink.
Biscuits was a decidedly more grown-up effort than his debut. After quitting, Greenall had time to properly tour for the album, going on the road with a live drummer and bassist to cover his more acoustic-based sound. The dense sampling and looping that defined his early work had gone by the wayside, in lieu of a tin guitar and mild psych-folk peeks. The effect produced poignant, slick hick-hop, without the kitschy self-awareness that plagues most efforts at that rare subgenre, the fusion of rap and country. The market responded gloriously, with iTunes granting it several singles of the week and a nod for singer-songwriter album of the year. Thus, Greenall was able to leave his day job and give the album the support it needed.
Distance and Time picks up where Biscuits left off. Except, having been sucked back into a busy schedule, Greenall relegated the producing duties to Andy Barlow of Lamb. That turned out to be a positive in the end. The cinematic folk scope of this project is obviously warmer, richer, and more intricate than either of the albums that came before it. I don't know what Barlow did, but the acoustic-guitar sound here is night and day compared to Biscuits. It's more vibrant and natural, conveying all the subtle nuances of live performance. For example, "If Only" is a relaxed tale of yearning love, containing only Fin's voice and guitar, and a delicate wooden tapping, picked up by the studio condenser mics, that persists throughout. This is the kind of thing that often gets lost in the mix, but it's actually one of the song's most charming aspects. It puts him right in your living room.
On the whole, Fink's hip-hop influence has been obscured even more on Distance and Time. Instead, this album is aimed at the troubling Jack Johnson, James Blunt, John Mayer vein of vapid strums-for-mums folk that fills Starbucks and Sears everywhere with horribly inoffensive banality. The difference is Fink doesn't sugar-coat or water-down the blunt realities of these mentally segregated times. That honesty spills through his playing. He's not hiding anything. "Get Your Share" matches an acoustic guitar, morphed to sound like a digitally distorted didgeridoo, with another guitar, tapping into hard-line folk, and a light percussive accompaniment. The lyrics, meanwhile, appropriate capitalist buzz words into a surreal dagger jabbing at the individual complacency that lies within our dying "isms." Dig the line, "If you got no ideas / then you need business plans."
Distance And Time is all but destined to improve upon the success of Biscuits for Breakfast. Fink has demonstrated clarity of vision, stemming from steady maturity and the wisdom that comes with it. He's found his way, and his determination to show us how to get there makes this the most perfect and remarkable addition to his catalogue yet. Kudos for realized potential in action.