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Freelance Whales make a gentle splash
with folk-laced indie-pop

Freelance Whales - Weathervanes
(Frenchkiss Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 23, 2010
Freelance Whales

Review by Tony Bonyata

If there's one thing consistent with indie bands these days it's their band names. Over the past few years we've seen an influx of acts using words like Bear, Wolf, Crystal and even the queen-mother of four- letter expletives time and again as part of their band monikers. The latest of this lemming-like, follow-the-popular-band-name practice has taken an affinity to the largest mammal on the planet. Black Whales, Vulture Whale, Or, The Whale and, my personal favorite musically speaking, Noah and The Whale have all emerged over the last year or two, and now there's another new addition to this already overpopulated school - Freelance Whales.

On their debut album Weathervanes the NYC-based quintet may follow suit with others by using Whale in their band name, but musicially they eschew both the angular post-punk and indie-chamber-folk that other acts have recently been tapping into. Instead Freelance Whales, consisting of Judah Dadone, Kevin Read, Doris Cellar, Jacob Hyman and Chuck Criss, have created a satisfying hybrid of gentle melodic pop mixed with equal measures of folk and electronica. The band isn't afraid to mix the homespun sounds of banjo, harmonium and glockenspiel with laptop generated beats and blips, as witnessed on songs such as the sunny pop of "Generator ^ Second Floor." the catchy "Kilojoules" and "Starring," which features Dadone's lilting vocals dancing lightly over the track's skittish beats and percolating synth line.

These lightly upbeat moments are also mixed with more tranquil numbers such as the folk-inspired "Broken Horse," the slightly twee indie-pop vibe of "We Could Be Friends" and the ethereal "Ghosting." The band ties it all together with short ambient folk instrumentals such as "Vessels," "Danse Flat" and "Hallways."

Despite their name suggesting something mammoth in size and scope, Freelance Whales instead show their strength and power through the many moments of fragile, melodic bliss on Weathervanes. And surprisingly it all adds up to something that sounds pretty big.

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