Fanfarlo is the brainchild of Swedish-born singer-songwriter Simon Balthazar, as well as the moniker of the London-based pop quintet he formed in 2006. Over the past three years, the band has been awfully busy: they’ve released a number of singles for various independent labels, made several tour stops at SXSW and in the back of London taxi cabs, and steadily accumulated some adoring Internet buzz along the way. For the recording of Reservoir, their recently self-released full-length debut, the group holed up in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, studio of producer Peter Katis (Interpol, The National) during the fall of 2008.
Reservoir features eleven lush arrangements of rousing orchestral indie-pop. Comparisons of the album’s sound to the likes of the Arcade Fire, Beirut, and Neutral Milk Hotel abound, and these comparisons are valid, but only insofar as Fanfarlo’s ambitious music similarly draws inspiration from an expansive and often unconventional palette. Elements of traditional English folk, post-rock, and marching-band fanfare (just to name a few) are found within the band’s already vast instrumental collage of mandolin, glockenspiel, chimes, trombone, and the more commonplace presence of guitars, keys, and drums. The songs’ baroque and sweeping melodies provide the backdrop to Balthazar’s plaintive voice, which sings urging and dreamy tales of men and women caught up in life’s spin. Reservoir is a powerfully affecting record, and a confident debut from a band with a future that’s soon to be at the center of attention. That they aspire for the same lofty indie-pop pedestal of other cherished and idiosyncratic acts should not serve as a knock against them at all; rather, the references to those bands are merely points of departure for Fanfarlo’s own inspired and wondrous ride.
Fanfarlo not only released their debut themselves, but they also handcrafted 500 limited editions of the album -- housed in special foil-blocked, embossed linen-covered dvd-shaped box, packed with an exclusive set of heavyweight letterpress printed postcards featuring the band’s artwork and lyrics -- themselves! They set up a production line in their own living room and handpacked each one:
The sets were originally available through Rough Trade but are long gone by now. However, we have two of them to give away! You have until 2PM Monday, July 6, to send an email saying what you love about Fanfarlo’s new album, and two lucky winners will be chosen. (Sorry, self-pity doesn’t work.)
If you hurry to their website, you can download the entire album, plus four bonus tracks, for only one dollar, but the offer expires tomorrow, July 4th!
Here are some more beautiful photos of the set by Ben Ward:
-- submitted by James Truitt