Throughout all of the eras, styles, and movements in rock music's relatively brief history, there has remained a special place for the well-crafted, intelligent pop song. Though elegantly made, it frequently goes unrewarded and unheralded, often humbly settling to become the inspiration for another lower-grade, but more commercially viable imitator. Regardless of the size and scope of their impact, these songs are crucial in maintaining the integrity of modern songwriting and advancing the art form. Pennsylvanian quartet Fauna Flora have produced 11 of these types of songs on their sparkling self-titled debut. The project of Lancaster-based singer/songwriter Steve Ward, Fauna Flora come from the school of rock where artists like Elvis Costello, Neil Finn, and Ron Sexsmith are instructors. The wonderfully melodic lead single "Happy Hour" succinctly captures the hazy lushness of the late-afternoon buzz and other standout cuts like "Head of Fern" and "The Arms of Winter" are equally evocative examples of Ward's thoughtful songwriting style, which is at turns clever, romantic, and wistfully melancholic. There are certainly elements of power pop here but they don't revel in them and the album's production is warm, yet modern enough to feel contemporary and fresh. Dense synth parts punctuate the well-arranged songs which feature string sections, rich vocal harmonies, and a deft, punchy rhythm section. Ward's gentle voice lays tunefully over acoustic tracks like "As the Story Goes" and "The Mansard Roof and the Maple Tree," and more ardently over the unique Baroque, country-pop shuffle of "Yellow Moon." Whether or not these finely made songs find favor in this overly saturated market, Fauna Flora have taken their stand against mediocrity with an album of warmth, purpose, honesty, and extremely high quality.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger