Batke, Batke, Batke, Arnusch and Gallant. It may sound more like a law firm mixed with a Highlights magazine etiquette lesson, but in reality these five names make up Faunts, a Canadian indie band who, with their second studio album, is expanding their sound, both in terms of instrumentation and style. Faunts’ first album, High Expectations / Low Results, found its title acting as misnomer, yielding critical coups for a little known debut. Suddenly this pair of Edmonton brothers, who later added their third, found their name cast about freely with comparisons to heavyweights Sigur Rós, Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. Not too shabby. Then Faunts achieved popular success to go along with the critical praise by finding a track from their self-released M4 EP ensconced within the soundtrack for the huge hit video game, Mass Effect. With the computer savvy, dot-laden title, Feel.Love.Thinking.Of., Faunts returns, not only with the same dreamy progressive pop found on their debut, but also with an affection for ’80s synth wonderlands, a la M83.
You’d think with three separate vocalists that songs on the album would vary greatly, but every track on F.L.T.O. is of an ilk. No, you won’t find any Eagles, Fleetwood Mac or even Teenage Fanclub references here. Instead, each vocalist sounds eerily more familiar to the last, with the only difference being that each is only slightly more fey than the previous. Yet, with this kind of music, it works to perfection. From the opening title track, one knows exactly what one is getting into. “Feel.Love.Thinking.Of” is what you’d imagine from the reverse of the “Such Great Heights” cover. This time, it’s Ben Gibbard singing like Sam Beam, but with the electronic glitches and drum fills behind him. The comparisons with the round-headed sad one don’t stop there. The lyrics, at least what can be made out from the bedroom laptop whispers, follow the instructions: remove heart, place upon sleeve.
The above is certainly true with the tracks that immediately follow, with “Input” being a mix between Junior Boys’ cathartic best, Martin Gore’s tortured ballads, and the theme song to Knight Rider. “It Hurts Me All the Time” is a pure ’80s throwback, and somehow manages to combine Johnny Marr guitars with Stars’ heartfelt lyrics and elastic keyboards that would make Gillian Gilbert jealous. “Out on a Limb” toughens up the gauzy atmospheres with a cascade of guitars, yet the vocals remain Gibbard-esque, though this time from The Photo Album rather than Postal Service. “Das Malefitz” is astoundingly a stunning mixture of Krautrock, Pink Floyd prog, and M83 ’80s soundtrack dreaminess. It’s as if I had fallen asleep in a triple feature of The Wall, To Live and Die In L.A. and Out of Bounds, with the resulting dreams featuring a hodge-podge soundtrack of the three. That track flows quite neatly into “I Think I’ll Start a Fire,” with similar musical qualities, and even more of a connection with M83 and his recent fascination with John Hughes soundtracks. If a vocal could get any more fey than that on this track, I’d be surprised to hear it.
The closest that Faunts get to an indie `rock’ song is either with the aforementioned “Out on a Limb” or with their epic closer, and one of the best tracks on the album, “Explain.” The guitars are still gleefully mired in the ’80s, along with the bleating horn-like keyboards, but the structure and progression of the song recall the headier days of the Smiths and New Order, with the final guitar lines almost outright stealing from “Love Vigilantes.” Regardless, Feel.Love.Thinking.Of. is a very enjoyable record, one that is sure to appeal to fans who like a little bit of heart with their electronic dance music. After all, robots need love too.