Music

Friendly Fires Bring Some Necessary Euphoria to Summer with 'Inflorescent'

Photo: Dan Wilton / Polydor Records

Friendly Fires' first album in eight years, Inflorescent, brings the band's poppy, vibrant sensibilities to their full blast, a euphoria people definitely need in 2019.

Inflorescent
Friendly Fires

Polydor

16 August 2019

When you research Friendly Fires for articles such as an album review, you discover that lead singer Edward Macfarlane loves to dance. His fans love it too, often pointing his moves out as a highlight of the band's shows. So, it stands to reason Macfarlane would one day create an album specifically for joyous movement, an album like Inflorescent.

It's a real shame this album comes at the end of Summer 2019. Executive Producer Mark Ralph brings band's poppy, vibrant sensibilities to their full blast, resulting in a euphoria people may not necessarily think they deserve, but they certainly need in 2019. The hooks of Clean Bandit mixed with the introspection of Toro Y Moi, Inflorescent leans deeply into the bombastic and bright with instruments cranked to the max for their major keys.

For one thing, the beat never quite dips below 100 BPM, meaning each song moves. Disco, house music, and ska-like horn sections sit well at these tempos, and Macfarlane's tenor is charming enough to keep them enjoyable even if they're not especially fresh. Partners like Ralph or Disclosure, who add their hi-hats to lead single "Heaven Let Me In", ensure the sounds are polished. From there, Friendly Fires inject their infectious charisma, further enhanced by flourishes such as steel drums and disco strings. Where their debut felt like a glossy version of electropunk, Inflorescent takes dance music and four-on-the-floors and smooths their edges for maximum throttle.

The title, a reference to flowers blooming, speaks to the song's unwavering belief in the self as a means of positive change. On "Heaven Let Me In", the rising notes of the chorus deliver not a request but a demand, one strengthened by Marfarlane's "decision to free my soul". Guilty consciences predate even Catholic confession, but Inflorescent relays the message that whatever sins you've caused, you also possess the means with which to rectify them.

In doing so, the album turns troublesome situations into something more palatable. Add a few non-lexical vocals like ba da bops to existential thoughts ("Can't Wait Forever") or the vestiges of a concluding relationship ("Silhouettes", "Run the Wild Flowers") and everything appears much easier. The frantic nature of Inflorescent allows for distraction from less-than-pleasant subjects, but you also get the sense you're charging forward towards something better. "Dancing in the fadeout" is as strong an argument for afterglow as any other, and shimmering guitar riffs only bolsters its points.

It's in these revelations where the album wants you to thrive. The ebb and flow of romance provide a thrill on "Love Like Waves" while logging off becomes a personal victory on "Offline". Though the lessons here are not rocket science, they're also not always easy to come around to. The dream of romantic love or the threat of FOMO hold sway over many people. Inflorescent more than acknowledges such concepts. It accepts them: "I know that I'm fine with the things that I can't control."

Inflorescent wears its heart on its sleeve in the hopes listeners find it as therapeutic as the band does. In a way, it adds to the album's charm. Coolness isn't in endless supply for most people, and embracing uncool qualities may just be the way to invert their appeal. "Maybe I'm dramatic, but dramatic's what I'm like": honesty is always the best policy.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.

Music

Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish Replace Form with Risk on 'Interactivity'

The more any notions of preconceived musicality are flicked to the curb, the more absorbing Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish's Interactivity gets.

Music

Martin Green's Junkshop Yields the Gritty, Weird Story of Britpop Wannabes

Featuring a litany of otherwise-forgotten budget bin purchases, Martin Green's two-disc overview of coulda-been Britpop contenders knows little of genre confines, making for a fun historical detour if nothing else.

Reviews

Haux Compellingly Explores Pain via 'Violence in a Quiet Mind'

By returning to defined moments of pain and struggle, Haux cultivates breathtaking music built on quiet, albeit intense, anguish.

Reviews

'Stratoplay' Revels in the Delicious New Wave of the Revillos

Cherry Red Records' six-disc Revillos compilation, Stratoplay, successfully charts the convoluted history of Scottish new wave sensations.

Reviews

Rising Young Jazz Pianist Micah Thomas Debuts with 'Tide'

Micah Thomas' Tide is the debut of a young jazz pianist who is comfortable and fluent in a "new mainstream": abstraction as well as tonality, freedom as well as technical complexity.

Music

Why Australia's Alice Ivy Doesn't Want to Sleep

Alice Ivy walks a fine line between chillwave cool and Big Beat freakouts, and her 2018 debut record was an electropop wonder. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, she tries to keep the good vibes going with a new record decked out in endless collaborations.

Books

Five Women Who Fought the Patriarchy

Whether one chooses to read Square Haunting for the sketches of the five fascinating women, or to understand how misogyny and patriarchy constricted intellectual and public life in the period, Francesca Wade's book is a superb achievement.

Film

Director Denis Côté on Making Film Fearlessly

In this interview with PopMatters, director Denis Côté recalls 2010's Curling (now on Blu-Ray) discusses film as a "creative experiment in time", and making films for an audience excited by the idea of filling in playful narrative gaps.

Music

Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.

Music

Country Westerns Bask in an Unparalleled Sound and Energy on Their Debut

Country Westerns are intent on rejecting assumptions about a band from Nashville while basking in an unparalleled sound and energy.

Film

Rediscovering Japanese Director Tomu Uchida

A world-class filmmaker of diverse styles, we take a look at Tomu Uchida's very different Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji and The Mad Fox.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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