Fairweather Friend

The Umbrellas

Fairweather Friend

SLR 282 » released January 2024

» $20.00
» $9.00
DIGITAL » Bandcamp |  Apple Music |  Amazon Music
1. Three Cheers! 6. Games
2. Goodbye 7. Gone
3. Toe the Line 8. When You Find Out
4. Echoes 9. Blue
5. Say What You Mean 10. P.M.

nice color

On their sophomore album Fairweather Friend, Bay Area indie pop group The Umbrellas grows more sonically sophisticated and emotionally complex without losing any of the eruptive joy that has characterized their sound up until now. The band keeps their baseline of high energy melodic pop with notes cribbed from some of the best and most intentionally obscured acts of the genre, but also expands beyond it with more involved arrangements, increasingly direct lyrical themes, and songs that explore ideas both new to the group and well outside of standard indie templates. It's a collection of ten songs that somehow manage to convey fun, excitement, and expectant hopefulness, but at the same time give equal space to feelings of discouragement and world-weary ennui. It's music that's by no means simple on any level, and represents a bold evolution for the band.

Multiple factors play into the changes that have come about following The Umbrellas' early tracks and their self-titled debut album, which was released on Slumberland in 2021. Where the band's first songs had a charming naivety, a few years of steady touring and locking in together on stage have boosted both the confidence and the straightforward lyricism of the new songs. "Toe the Line" has a blasting, almost punk tempo, but The Umbrellas' inherent sweetness can't help but come through in the form of floating backing vocal harmonies and bouncy quasi-surf guitar leads. This newfound boldness teeters on the edge of aggression in moments like this, and leans more towards internal reflections on frustration and disappointment on tracks like the Verlaines-steeped "When You Find Out." Fairweather Friend was written with live drums, where earlier material was written (and sometimes recorded) with rudimentary drum machine rhythms. This compositional change plays into the more urgent, organic feel of the album as well. While the band's blue-skies jangle is still intact, the edges are a little sharper, and the flow takes new directions; sometimes slowing down contemplatively or wandering down a detour into new territory. This shows up in the moody string arrangements of acid-burned ballad "Say What You Mean" and the disheartened sighing of "Echoes," a song that perfectly captures the feeling of dreams denied. The band worked on the album in a focused span between November of 2022 and April of 2023, allowing themselves to sink into the ideas and refine them over time. A far cry from the D.I.Y. bluster of rushed studio time they were limited to on earlier recordings.

Heavy lyrical themes surface in many of the songs, but Fairweather Friend isn't a heavy sounding (or feeling) record. Even when singing about departed loved ones, romantic disillusionment, or the burden of societal expectations, unshakeable melodies are at the forefront of everything, and the band's powerfully fizzy pop chemistry has never been more synched-up. There are subtle nods to a mixtape's worth of golden era indie-pop inspirations throughout the album, and attentive listeners might hear refractions of everything from the fuzzy rush of Heavenly or Talulah Gosh to the charged dreaminess of Close Lobsters to the unassuming brilliance of any number of Sarah Records bands. Even with a discerning style informed by obscure heroes of the past, The Umbrellas sound more like themselves than ever before, and the way the band navigates difficult feelings is decidedly rooted in the now. Fairweather Friend is tougher and more aware without being jaded, and it's apparent that the band trusts their listeners enough to put these changes on full display. The songs enhance everything that made The Umbrellas so thrilling when they first emerged, and give us brand new reasons to fall in love all over again.


Sorry, the blue vinyl edition is sold out.

This is a co-release with our friends at Tough Love Records in London. Please support your local indie label!

see also » Write It In The Sky 7"/digital

see also » The Umbrellas LP/CD

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