Dinosaur Feathers – Fantasy Memorial

As the first album by a group of amateur musicians, Fantasy Memorial has lots of promise. It’s lyrics are largely supplanted in head-wandering, free spirit fantasies and exotic experiences and it’s all sung by an able voice that is able to hit highs easily and relatively passionately. As far as genres are concerned, Fantasy Memorial is able to shy away from any single label, instead relying on a mixture of different approaches on an almost song-by-song basis, with opener “I Ni Sogoma” being an obvious homage to Naked-era Talking Heads, and follow-up “Vendela Vida” being an open-aired take on latin dance and bossa nova jazz.

The most immediate and obvious influence is the previously mentioned Talking Heads, with the vocals sounding like mixture of David Byrne, odd shouts mannerisms and all, and Panda Bear, with his smooth, restrained charms. Apart from this, there are a lot of comparisons you could make, with Animal Collective being one, Vampire Weekend being another. However, on the whole, Fantasy Garden maintains a unique identity that helps prop up the sometimes odd pacing of the album. The largest benefit that Dinosaur Feathers have is that they don’t sound like much else, and all of the things they do sound like are pretty damn good.

Fantasy Memorial‘s modest presentation also helps the album, with a homely production and a general air that the entire thing was recorded in a single room, maybe on an old, ugly, reliable couch belonging to one of the three members. The backing vocals feel intimately close to the main set, with “Know Your Own Strength” being a key example of the feeling of general closeness the album has. Along with that, there are ambient nature sounds in the back usually, especially noticeable on “I Ni Sogoma”, which doesn’t particularly help exonerate the AnCo comparisons, but it does add to the general pleasant air the album has.

However, the main problem of the album is that it runs out of ideas fairly early on, with the first two songs being easily the best on the album, the next two following up the rear with their pleasant vocal quirks, and afterward is a mix of songs that aren’t as a creative. While they’re still generally good songs (“Fantasy Memorial” especially), they lack the heart and idiosyncrasy of the earlier songs, with the last lot depending heavily on vocal harmonies and percussion, which tires rather quickly. It doesn’t shipwreck the entire album, but it doesn’t help that this is an obvious case of an album that is front-loaded; once you get past the first few songs, there isn’t much reason to commit.

It’s a shame, because on the whole, Fantasy Memorial is a pretty good album. It doesn’t do anything particularly new, but instead blends a number of different influences that add to something that sounds oddly familiar despite it’s general singularity. It might run out of ideas half way through, but the album shows promise if nothing else; “I Ni Sogoma” and “Vendela Vida” are dangerously catchy, and if their were able to capture this strength and elongate with some more ideas, they could be on to something. As it stands now, Fantasy Memorial is a rather impressive debut that is at least worth a shot.

by Trevor “Teenage Whore” Johnson

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1 Comment

  1. 08/28/10: More New Reviews (Well, One…) « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Dinosaur Feathers – Fantasy Memorial by Trevor Johnson […]

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