By Sean Fennell
It’s hard to imagine the crippling excitement/anxiety that an artist must feel in the days and weeks following the release of their debut album. You could wake up in a couple of weeks and be the next big thing, or you could be one of only a handful of people who ever hear the work you put so much time and effort into. Of the millions of artists who have gone through this unique experience few have had the luck of Lo-Fang’s Matthew Hemerlein, who following the February 25th release of his first studio album will embark on tour with Lorde, one of the hottest pop acts in recent memory. This will no doubt increase the amount of people who will know Lo-Fang’s name, but will that lead to popularity and success? That will be determined by how audiences feel about the quality Blue Film, no matter the publicity or hype.
Considering the fact that Blue Film was originally intended to be a mix-tape/EP it has a very album-like feel, each song fitting in right where should (except perhaps the 8th track “intro” which seems unnecessary). One of the first patterns you notice when listening through the record is the use of strumming, whether it be on a guitar or any other string instrument, as the beat that gives each song a unified feeling amongst the wide-variety of extravagant arrangements. This is exampled early on “Boris” which begins with a simple strumming pattern accompanied by Hemerlein’s haunting voice but soon evolves into a virtual orchestra of instruments, all without losing its identity.
Lo-Fang also borrows from the growing trend in indie rock, made popular by bands like The XX, of an understated sound, which focuses on the details. This means that Blue Film may take a more attentive than some are willing to give. One track that is definitely worth your attention is “#88”, which standouts as without a doubt the most polished song on the record. One of Hemerlein’s skills that becomes apparent on “#88” is his impressive vocal range. He is able to go from a deep melancholy tone to a high pitched whisper within seconds. This allows his voice to become just another tool in his instrument belt used throughout Blue Film.
Another highlight of Blue Film comes on “Animal Urges”. Primarily because of the catchy chorus which states, “Make no mistake, these are animal urges”, warning us that although he may seem refined, he is not completely squeaky clean. The record also features an interesting take on the Grease classic “You’re the One That I Want”. One that features such a slow tone that it transforms the song from a giddy jingle to a depressing break up song. It is not an album without its faults, one complaint being that many of the songs have such similar sound and structure as to become at some points, indistinguishable. This, however is not a huge issue because of how pleasing that repeated sound is to the listener.
It doesn’t take long to realize the niche that Lo-Fang is going for. Matthew Hemerlein is classically trained and that is evident from the get go. Blue Film, recorded entirely by Hemerlein, features bass, guitar, cello, piano and violin, all of which he mixes seamlessly throughout almost every track. The comparisons to other multi-talented indie rockers like Andrew Bird is a natural one not only because of the style of his work but also because of the overall quality. Blue Film is an impressively polished effort for a debut album and one that will surely garner attention, regardless of who Lo-Fang headlines for.