Fairwell - EP
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: December 22, 2006
To me, a lowly, uneducated music critic, recording your first EP seems like a heavy task. Do you start off abandoning production quality for the sake of getting songs on disc, and hope that experience and exposure will allow your songs to age well? Or do you carefully construct each song and work at building a complete kick ass listening experience in hopes of your first official offering generating that exposure? For me, most of my favorite groups started out with simple initial offerings, and I’ve seen them mature far beyond what they initially sounded like, sometimes to the point of even rejecting their early songs. So when I hear a band with a beautifully crafted EP, I know to expect great things. Such was the case when my friends Jon and Phil formed an outfit called Fairwell, and released their first EP.
Right after pressing play, the listener is introduced to a bright guitar arpeggio which immediately creates anticipation and excitement. No sooner than one can grab their air guitar and yell, “HELLO SAINT LOUISSSSSSSSSS!”, Mike Brooks’ drumming ushers in a taste of what Fairwell is all about: upbeat pop/rock highlighted by bright, soaring vocal harmonies. Frontman Jon Paider’s pleasant, polished vocals are reminiscent of Dave Elkins and Jason Vena; at his best they are smooth and clean, at his worst they are flat, uninteresting, and forgettable. Bassist Phil Grooms’ vocals are brighter and rawer, but mix nicely with Paider’s vocal stylings to create a formidable dual vocal attack.
However, the band doesn’t pigeonhole themselves into a specific genre. Tracks like “About You Now” and “Close Your Eyes” show off the band’s versatile musicianship. The guys keep playing switcheroo, going from clean and serene to distorted and fierce, however the mix never feels awkward. Driving guitars, dynamic drumming, and explosive screams on both tracks show that the guys know how to create heavier rock songs as well as polished, upbeat pop numbers.
However, within the first two measures of "The Best Part", the listener can start to guess that they’re going to enjoy the poppier side of Fairwell more on this disc. While each song on the album is well crafted, there’s a fun level on their pop songs that is through the roof . Exuberant gang vocals, cheerful melodies, upbeat drumming, and lines like “You will always be the best part of me,” will have even the worst Debbie Downer feeling a new wind of optimism overtake them. “Hold On” slows things down a bit, but creates the same hopeful mood as “Is This a Threat or a Promise?” and “The Best Part”, and with it’s bright guitars, and upbeat lyrics serves as a satisfying closer to the album.
I suppose it’s poetic irony that one of the best EP’s released in the St. Louis independent scene was not extraordinarily received. I blame it on the social depression established by then recent events: Loser’s Luck ended, Westcott disbanded, and Novella sounded…different. People had to have been too sad to not realize what was a fresh addition to the scene. Sure we had lost some local heroes, but we had gained a new champion. Hope was not lost! As Fairwell suggested all we had to do was “hold on”. Alas, the group disbanded shortly after the release of their EP, and I moved to Toronto and discovered rap, indie, and folk. However, when I’m in need to reminisce of younger days, the guys in Fairwell provide the soundtrack for my nostalgia.
This is the second review out of three that I'm doing of St. Louis bands I listened to in high school that I thought were the best St. Louis had to offer the music scene. I still listen to these bands (not recently though cause my iTunes crashed and I lost a bunch of music). I know I haven't done #4 (there were some technical difficulties) so I'll just tell you to check out Cinematography and Fidelity by Novella. If you want to know why I started this series, check out my blog here: http://www.absolutepunk.net/journal....412 &e=287502.
Also check out number two here: http://absolutepunk.net/showthread.php?t=2774592