Chamber pop inherently gets a bad rap. Granted, ethereal female voices sometimes have a tendency to blend into the same lilting tales of lost love, afternoons in parks, and birds soaring across azure skies when you hear a track while strolling through Anthropologie. Yet occasionally a more sinister, brooding element lies well-hidden underneath gentle layers of piano and crooning vocals.
Enter Felix, a UK trio embracing the traditional chamber pop aesthetic -- but with a bite that leaves you a bit unsure about what exactly you’ve just eaten. “Friday night is the worst night to be alive,” bitterly croons alluring vocalist -- as well as trained pianist/cellist -- Lucinda Chua, whose disarming songwriting style sounds part Chan Marshall, part spirit conjured from the deepest recesses of shadowy, cobwebbed corners.
The band’s second release Oh Holy Molar garnered its peculiar name from their discovery of a deserted dental laboratory directly beneath the abandoned 1940s cinema where it was recorded. The eerieness of sprawling spaces encountered in the recording process are directly reflected on the album, which gravitates conceptually around the dual themes of superstition and the immediacy of displaced emotions including fear, abandonment and isolation.
Opening track “The Bells” immediately stuns with Chua’s exquisite vocals over a wash of existential questions and soft electric guitars. Ominous murmurs comprise the beginning of “Sunday Night,” leading as a quiet but foreboding omen into frighteningly lovely standout track “Oh Thee 73.” Haunting piano loops accompany the provocative Chua on title track “Oh Holy Molar,” whose already idiosyncratic vocals oscillate from salted-caramel sweet to a sultry premonition in a mere matter of moments. Piercing “Hate Song” goes against everything that chamber pop traditionally stands for, where Chua coldly resents a former lover with a hard-boiled hatred. A choir of wintery voices surpass a chill to the spine with “Blessing Part II”; instead traveling directly down to the bone.
“Isn’t it funny how you spit the bad words out / There in the blood / As they fall out of your mouth?” asks Chua rhetorically to an unsuspecting listener, swaying as much as seducing. To say that Oh Holy Molar has a bite is a vast understatement -- the record grabs ahold of your skin and refuses to let go.