Les Savy Fav

Let's Stay Friends

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    9
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After a six-year break due to a severe case of writer's block, wild-hearted frontman Tim Harrington and his boys have upped the ante upon return with Let's Stay Friends, an excellent record that marks a dramatic stylistic departure for Les Savy Fav. Here, they continue building upon their foundation, which is writing deceptively solid post-hardcore songs with a heavy spattering of angular influence, while leaning forward into a more polished territory of crisp, embellished production. This record is a logical progression from Go Forth, an album that showed the group beginning to stray from their hardcore roots, and here they masterfully blanket their incendiary raw power with touches of piano, horns, dub delays, and other subtle dabs of headphone candy. LSV enlisted the help of some choice studio experts to provide these sugary additives, namely vocalists Eleanor Friedberger (the Fiery Furnaces), Toko Yasuda (Enon), and Nick Thorburn (the Unicorns), with appearances by Emily Haines (Metric) on piano and Joe Plummer (the Black Heart Procession) and Fred Armisen on drums. It's an all-star cast of players, and the band sounds tighter than ever as they propel Harrington's trademark coarse yelp through the distortion of an album filled with potential singles. On "Slugs in the Shrubs" and "The Equestrian" he howls feverishly alongside razor-sharp guitar lines, and then switches to a swooning falsetto in the Spoon-ish numbers "The Year Before the Year 2000" and "Patty Lee." Purists may miss the raw intensity of the band's earlier years, but it's hard to deny that this is simply a great, melody-driven record that crosses over, not quite to the extremity of, say, the Clash's Combat Rock but more like the Dismemberment Plan's Change, into a more stylistic and hook-driven world while maintaining the aggressive edge that makes them such a likeable force. Walking that line is a tightrope act, but Let's Stay Friends does so flawlessly, all the while solidifying that these guys are some of the best in the biz when it comes to crafting angular, idiosyncratic pop tunes -- and that's saying a lot when you go down the lengthy checklist of Gang of Four-referencing, post-hardcore bands that have formed in the past decade. This album was well worth the wait and should win over some new fans and please the old ones too. Best of show.

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