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

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Music

Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Music

Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

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.