The Fresh & Onlys

House of Spirits

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On their fourth album, House of Spirits, the Fresh & Onlys sound even more removed from the thrillingly offbeat '60s-inspired combo they were when they began. Following the path that its previous albums have taken, the band is now much more considered and calm, with a graceful reserve instead of a bouncing-off-the-walls fervor. As on 2012's Long Slow Dance, it's a tradeoff that works in their favor, and their maturation hasn't left them sounding stale or tired at all. There's enough jangle in the guitars and psychedelic weirdness in the sound to keep things fresh, and the weighty seriousness that comes through in Tim Cohen's words and his increasingly authoritative voice is impressive. The album sets a mood of pleasant melancholy and slightly stoned introspection that is mostly unbroken, making it easy to drift along in a peaceful haze. Tracks like "Bells of Paonia" and "Madness" are sleepy, dreamy psych pop ballads, "Animal of One" and "Home Is Where?" have a laid-back Western feel that reflects the fact that Cohen wrote the album while camped out in the Arizona desert, and a couple tracks are so quiet they wouldn't disturb a lazy Sunday afternoon ("I'm Awake," "Ballerina"). Balancing these soft and steady tracks are a couple songs that kick up a little dust; the very poppy "Candy" bursts out of its laid-back Church-y verses into a soaring chorus and the insistent "April Fools" has some of their old rambunctiousness. The straightforward rocker "Hummingbird" even invites some overdriven distortion to the otherwise noise-free proceedings. It's a burst of energy on an album that is more about the moments before and after the storm, and the overall restraint and maturity may be enough to drive away any fans still hoping for some spooky and weird garage pop. Those who continue to stick with the band will find themselves rewarded with another fine addition to an impressive catalog and an example of grown-up psych pop that's both calming and soul-searching, while never being anything less than completely enjoyable.

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