The addictive unpredictability of Flying’s debut, Just-One-Second-Ago-Broken-Eggshell (2006), goes M.I.A. on the Brooklyn trio’s second album, Faces of the Night. It’s no big loss, though, because for every out-of-nowhere clatter of drums or sudden diversion that isn’t there anymore, there’s a strong melody or startling lyrical turn to take its place. If Eggshell found a bunch of daydreaming children wandering through the threshold of pop genius with all their toys, Faces finds the members of Flying developing attention spans and an appreciation for boundaries other than their own imaginations.
On Faces, Flying stumbles into artistic “maturity” with a leery eye. The brevity and ramshackle charm of their songs remains, but here the collages of Casio keyboards and melodic scraps are more structured, better realized. The asides that interrupt the indie-pop stomp of “One-Eyed Son” and “Body Bent” feel less jagged; recorders and jaw harp show up as allies, not just intentionally odd production choices. Their late-night narratives of clowns, emotional obsession, evil birds and eviler deeds are darker than before. And Eliot Krimsky and Sara Magenheimer’s vocals, both a bit listless on Eggshell, easily carry the fragility of songs like “Draw It in the Dark” and “Double-Hearted Clown.”
Absurdist indie-rock bands Deerhoof, the Unicorns and Dirty Projectors are still Flying’s closest corollaries, but Faces offers ample evidence of the band’s classic pop instincts. It’s probably no accident that the mellotron intro and harpsichord outro of “A Cloud in Doubt” are so reminiscent of “Strawberry Fields” and “Dear Prudence,” two of the Beatles’ finer psychedelic-pop productions. The chillingly sparse folk ballad “Poor Simone” nails the timelessness of the famous Child Ballads — it’s an indication that Flying knows when to let go of the rinkydink keyboards and let a melody speak for itself.
Because Faces is less willfully odd than its predecessor, it’s also a mite less exciting. Flying made a worthwhile tradeoff, though. The album’s a classic “grower,” one whose depth — melodically, production-wise, and especially lyrically — only reveals itself on repeated listens. On the low-rent epic “Fear of Flying,” Eben Portnoy warbles, “I’m a boring worm hiding from the storm/ If you find me buried in a hole/ I’ll become nothing, soft as a shadow.” He’s got nothing to worry about. Faces of the Night burrows deep and digs up plenty.