• Wed, Aug 21, 2019
Reviews

The F16s Stride Towards Revivalism On New EP -WKND FRNDS

8.0

album Reviews Jun 12, 03:07pm

The Chennai indie band are the latest entrant into the ‘Hey, old-school music was pretty cool!’ club
 Photo Courtesy: The f16s

The F16s have had a pretty coherent discography over the years; their earlier releases (2013’s Kaleidoscope, which is many ways was their best collection of songs) established them as a fantastic mix of indie, funk and shades of heaviness that they used in just the right amounts. Songs like ‘Light Bulbs’ and ‘Nuke’ are still bangers today, which proves that the album also aged well. 2016’s Triggerpunkte was a less focused project (that had ‘Moon Child’, of course) where the band went into soul and lo-fi territory with varying results. Their latest project, WKND FRNDS, shows a definite lack of wavering and results in a much more tight and cohesive EP.

 

 


Not to say that there isn’t anything new here or that the band doesn’t explore new sounds. There isn’t any of the fire of Kaleidoscope or the lukewarm journeys into bedroom pop of Triggerpunkte, but there are vibes for days. This is the F16s’ true-to-form dreampop EP, and it’s a sound that suits them to a T. The crackling, compressed drums suit Sashank Manohar and his subtle grooves so much more here than the four-on-the-floor faux-disco style of their earlier work. The 4 tracks on the EP are drenched (and I mean drenched) in synths and analog warmth, and it makes the songs have so much more body and personality. Abhinav Krishnaswamy’s guitars aren’t front and centre by any means, but he finds some space to do that half-noodling-half-riff thing that the band is known for. Joshua Fernandez’s warm but sometimes raspy voice is drenched in reverb on this EP and makes him sound more emotional and truthful that ever before. Another large factor in this sound working so well is the impeccable production. WKND FRNDS is pretty much the most polished sounding EP of this year, and it delivers on every front sonically. The synths are the perfect amount of nostalgia, the forward-thinking drum production is on point, and the bass (endless grooves from Harshan Radhakrishnan) is frankly the reason for half the head-bobs on the tracklisting. The songs themselves are the last piece of the puzzle, and, well, they don’t disappoint for the most part.
The first thing to say is that Tame Impala (or at least their flanger and drum sound) and Prophet V-like G-funk synth tones are the literal backbone of this project. They’re great influences to pull from, but it does turn the parts of the release without them into slight downers. Take the opening track, ‘My Baby’s Beak’. It’s an odd way to open an EP; it’s a ballad with spacey vocals and old-school guitar tones. It blossoms into something that sound like it came from the 60s but took a trip through many 90s rom-coms along the way. The second half proves to be the meat of the song, however. Josh’s layered and harmonized vocals disappear and are replaced by the synths (an 8-bit synth doing melodic things while organ type sound complement) and a more lonely, reverb-soaked vocal tone. Once the drums return, they are the jittery, quiet and subtle sound that the rest of the EP thrives on. ‘Boudoir’ (a track that stands out after a few listens) has a few spooky synths that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Kool And The Gang song and an arrangement that complements the vocals in that way a Tame song does. A few jazzy chords and some delicious bass licks later, the song jumps into what can only be described as a proper outro breakdown, and this is where The F16s really spread their wings and show you how glorious they can be. The guitars sound incredible, the lead melody and accompanying bass and uplifting, the drums are psychedelic as hell and the hushed vocals are perfect. This is probably the most pure example of what this sound can do for the band, and it’s super encouraging. ‘Amber’, as I had said in a previous review, is probably the track where influences cross the line into straight-up co-opting, and while that’s not a problem by any means, it does mean that the track (that is well written and features a wonderfully slick change of pace in the middle) loses a bit of its lustre. But it’s more than made up for the closer, which is the title track on the EP and by miles the best song the band has released in a bit. The synth melodies are nostalgic and bittersweet, and they sound spectacular with the most earworm bassline Harshan has contributed on the project (especially in the verse, my god). The transitions into the ‘chorus’ (which have some amazing horns to push the vocals forward) help the verses, which sound like they’re speaking about times lost. The middle of the track has a trademark Kevin Parker flanger-heard-over-the-phone effect that goes into the most danceable outro here; a distillation of all the elements explored before, but with a little electronics and energy thrown in. It’s awesome.

 

 

For its few faults, the reason the EP works so well is the fact that it knows what it wants to do and takes no compromises in going on random digressions or making points that have no connection to the main ideas of its 4 songs. Sometimes it does go into band-worship territory, but that can be forgiven. What matter is that the songs are solid and the release makes sense as a continuous listen (something I recommend doing), so yeah. WKND FRNDS is prtty gd.

 

Listen to "WKND FRNDS" 

 

 

 

 

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