Review: Fever Fever – Native Color (2013)

Fever Fever are an ambient rock quartet from Columbus, OH. The guys are known for their stellar musicianship, energetic live shows, light bulb flanked stage shows and the epic dreadlocks of guitarist Wes Black and lead vocalist Drew Murfin (though we still have love for Sam Smith and Vince Gaeitto). Following two EPs and one full length, the band began to experiment with a more stripped down sound, eventually embarking on a tour in their new format that replaced an electric guitar with a mandolin and had backing musician Zack Taylor filling in for Sam Smith (now a newlywed) on drums a number of occasions. In addition, the band enjoyed a bit of notoriety when Nike picked up their single “Beautiful Dream” for use during the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

Native Color is a collection of songs old and new that explores a new side of Fever Fever and capitalizes on the seemingly insatiable folk/alternative craving indie fans have nowadays. Having heard all the songs on this release in live settings in the stripped down/reworked format for a while now (Fever Fever and I share hometowns) the EP doesn’t quite pick up the organic feel of these songs in a live setting. But, can a professionally recorded EP convey the vibes given by a performance in the living room of a rickety old house in Columbus, surrounding by 20 or so people? I would argue not. Aaron Newberry (of SONS fame) does a splendid job making the EP sound good regardless though.

“Clouds Catch Fire” gets us in a semi-meditative state with Wes Black’s on point flute melody, backing Drew’s singing invitation to come “where the clouds catch fire…” Following this track is a redo of one of my personal favorite from the LoveQuest LP, titled “Hallucinate.” As if the tune weren’t ethereal enough, the reworked version adds even more layers. Replace keys, electric guitar, bass, and drums with percussion, xylophone, tapping, mandolin, acoustic guitar and bass and you might get an idea. Does your head hurt? Take a listen to this cathartic track and that will help.

“Beautiful Dream,” the band’s best known single, unsurprisingly gets a reworking as well. Given how the original crescendos this reworking sounds just a tiny bit awkward but it is still a success. The majestic “On Top of the World” follows with some violin plucking sparingly but effectively employed. In contrast, the xylophone is employed liberally, but it fits. Aaron Newberry’s production skills shine the most in this track – at least that we’ve heard so far on the EP. “Mystery of Love,” the band’s preferred set opener as of late, next makes an appearance. Earthy and ambient tones clash in this arrangement, but not in a distracting way. Concluding the EP, we get our final new tune “Everyday.” Wistful singing backed by quickly meandering xylophone pounding gives way to a chorus that is, well, fit for ending the EP. It leaves us eager for the next release but satisfied.

Given Fever Fever’s rigorous touring schedule the past few months and their increased affinity for experimentation, I am very interested to see where they head.

Fever Fever: Facebook | Noisetrade (album download – leave a tip!)

Rating: 6.8/10

 

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