Album Review | Freelance Whales - Diluvia

[G]one are the ghost stories. Freelance Whales’ new album Diluvia, out today, is — according to the band — “a record about the possibly survival, or peril, of space-faring humans and other arguable fantastical scenarios.” But don’t let that deter you. It sounds a lot more serious than the record actually is. Afterall, the only peril these astronauts could run into would be forgetting to bring

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their banjos and xylophones along for the ride. If Weathervanes was a homecoming, Diluvia is an escape.

In 2009 Freelance Whales released their debut album Weathervanes, an album that sounded like it was recorded in an old, worn house, with tracks that grew louder and louder until they warmed and filled the entire home. The Brooklyn quintet has managed to hold onto this ability to build and layer music, which is undoubtably one of their strengths. What’s different on this album, is the expansive and atmospheric sound, due mostly to the prominence of synthesizers on every track. Of course, there was plenty of synthy pop on their last album. But for every track or chorus that featured synths and electronic sounds, a banjo, glockenspiel, xylophone or clapping answered back. On Diluvia, there’s hardly a track that doesn’t bring the electronic sounds to the front.

Follow Through, starts off with the usual building of ambient noises. Then Judah Dadone’s vocals come in and the synthesizers build around him to a chorus that sounds like it’s straight out of the 80s. Though in their defense, I believe that is a bit of banjo I can hear tinkering in the background. But somehow this all works — as most Freelance Whales tracks do — and captures both the unknown and the fantastic.

Another new feature of Diluvia is that there are more tracks with Doris Cellar exclusively on lead vocals. Splitting Image puts Cellar’s vocals on display, with a chorus of ‘hoo-hoo’-ing harmonies. And then again on Winter Seeds, which is a much slower track, it is the banjo and accompanying harmonies that balance out Cellar’s airy vocals. In fact, it seems quite a shame that we didn’t get much of Doris’ lead vocals before this point. Judah’s back for the floating Red Star, and quite frankly, his vocals sound better than ever on Diluvia. It sounds like he’s toned down the ‘cute’, which is definitely a good thing.

In the end, Freelance Whales have swapped their clatter for a more atmospheric sound, and if you’re up for 53 minutes of soaring tunes about light beams and rations to go anywhere, this album is a success. The band is out touring in support of their new album, and will stop by Boston in early November. Check out the rest of the tour dates below:

10/4 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
10/5 Minneapolis, MI – 7th St Entry
10/6 Madison, WI – Redamte
10/7 Iowa City – Maintenance Shop
10/10 Dallas, TX – Trees
10/11 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
10/13 Mexico City, MX – Corona Festival
10/14 Austin, TX – Austin City Limits
10/16 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey
10/18 San Francisco, CA – Mezzanine
10/20 Portland, OR – Doug Fir
10/21 Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
10/23 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
10/24 Denver, CO – Bluebird
10/26 St. Louis, MO – Firebird
10/27 Nashville, TN – The End
10/28 Atlanta, GA – The Loft
10/30 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
10/31 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
11/1 New York, NY – Webster Hall
11/2 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
11/3 Boston, MA – Paradise