If you told people this year would be ripe for a soft-rock revival, it would send a chill down everyone's spine, guaranteed. But we may be in for that, judging by the release of Vancouver's Fancey.
Todd Fancey, keyboard/guitarist of the New Pornographers and onetime member of Limblifter, says he's still stuck in the seventies because that's what he's most comfortable with. And that placating feeling of AM radio is constant on his eponymous debut solo album.
Following the lead of sixties sunshine pop band the Association, Fancey pays tribute to the border between cheesy and cheesy-ironic ballads, which is mainly home to the stuff he grew up on. The album contains some modern color, but it gives you the feeling that quality classic soft rock does -- a warm, lush vibe.
It's no surprise, then, that his record isn't about synths and sequencers. He does lean heavily on his electric piano, and the guitars, as heavy as they get, sound like they were pushed through a marshmallow. The result is heaviness without loudness.
Fancey recorded without expensive studio help or producers, but he did recruit some sympathetic friends. Fancey's star-studded lineup includes old Canadian West Coast chum, drummer Kurt Dahle, whom he played with in Limblifter four years ago; the New Pornographers' Carl Newman and Blaine Thurier lend a hand; and background vocals from the lovely Neko Case are beautiful and fitting for the album's vibrant but distorted tone.
The only thing that throws the listener off is Fancey's own vocals, reminiscent of Big Star's Chris Bell. The vocals come off forced and jagged on most of the tracks that overlay the creamy soft tracks. But his appeal of a young Todd Rundgren or Leo Sayer surpasses this slight flaw.
What is encouraging is that Fancey isn't afraid to be sad -- or, most specifically, at least in the case of his solo debut, to write sad music. "That's why I like Stereolab," he said in an interview. "They use sad chords sometimes. There's nothing wrong with that -- music sounds good when it's sad sometimes." And there are some melancholic tones that surface occasionally, when Fancey whines about how "the sun has gone away" and now his "memory's blind."
Fancey can transport you back to the seventies and hearing easy-listening songs on your mom's car stereo or maybe hearing the kid with the headgear and braces play acoustic guitar and sing about spring weather as he sits under a shady tree. Buckle down your parents, boys and girls, 'cause we may be embarking on the nu-Todd Rundgren. Youll hear it first on your local E-Z rock station.
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