Forever So

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With Forever So, Australian indie folk quartet Husky present a collection of labored-over tunes, full of heart-on-the-sleeve sentiments and the combination of doe-eyed wonder and log-cabin existentialism that defines so much of the subsect of indie-based acoustic rock that followed freak folk. Opening with the softly building "Tidal Wave," Husky layer acoustic guitars, organs, shimmering electric guitar flourishes, and an ever-so-slightly psychedelic breakdown, resulting in the same kind of soul-searching arc Fleet Foxes regularly achieve, only minus that group's signature spot-on harmonies. Many of the album's 13 tracks follow closely in the footsteps of an already established act, with nods to Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, and Midlake, and the entire album brims over with woodsy imagery and vague allusions to storms on the open sea, late-night city scenes, and uneasy emotional partings. All of the elements are placed meticulously, but when in motion, the album feels cloying, derivative at best, and boring in the most sterile of ways. Lifeless production blends all the various instruments into a solid single color and pushes bandleader Husky Gawenda's reserved vocals into the grey blur. The album feels broadcasted in from across a canyon, reaching for emotional depth and autobiographical heaviness but never with lyrics, melodies, or performances direct enough to establish or even intone meaning in all of the void spaces left for the listener to fill in. Without making any overtly direct statements, bands like Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes broke through with the palpable, audible embodiment of heartbreak that characterized their earliest albums. Husky are lacking any of those raw nerves or experience and you can tell just by listening. Husky's naive approach is most apparent when they're trying their hardest for intensity or connection. "How Do You Feel" opens with the echoey sound of footsteps down a hallway and the lyrics "How do you feel?/I feel like I just killed a man/It doesn't feel real." The heavy-handedness is embarrassingly green and so serious it can only feel insincere. When Husky let their guard down somewhat, inspiration starts to show through the cracks, as on parts of the album's closing suite, "Farewell (In 3 Parts)." Classic rock harmonies à la the Beach Boys or CSNY support three partially finished and strung-together song fragments, and these salvaged afterthoughts are the most honest-feeling moments of the album. But sincerity isn't the main issue with Forever So. While the album has its share of pretty melodies and even some gently beautiful moments, it's mostly a string of unremarkable songs built on platitudes, searching for reason and resolution but ultimately coming up empty-handed.

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