My Darling Fury

Licking Wounds

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My Darling Fury's debut, the thematically titled Licking Wounds, is an arresting blend of about five parts indie pop, one part musical theater, and one part chamber music. Orchestral at times and dynamic throughout, the sound is mostly defined by uncommonly dramatic vocal melodies as well as by instrumentation that strays from guitar, keyboards, and drums into piano, woodwinds, and strings on tracks such as "Magic Creatures" and "Friendly Parasite." The latter is an offbeat exploration of romantic affection with sustained chords and dropped parts contrasted with rhythmically active, jangly stacks of guitars, drums, bass, synth, low-range strings, and woodwinds. These marked variations are all topped by Danny Reyes' striking vocal range, as in the theatrical, Musetta’s Waltz-like chorus, "Love is just a bug you learn to like and that's all right/It's just a parasite -- a friendly parasite." The album’s not all quite so sophisticated, relatively speaking. There are lush, guitar-based sounds, too, as on the dreamy, droning, drums-driven "Spilled Milk" and the Johnny Marr-guitar-infused "Schoolyard Warrior." However, the whole record makes for pretty poor background music because it's all attention-grabbing fare. Reyes, who grew up singing in church and school choirs, has a pure, buoyant tone that separates and leads rather than blends, so whatever the instrumentation, lyrics draw focus. Largely about overcoming adversity, they root for the hapless, as illustrated in titles like "Frail Thing," "The End of the World," and "Blots in the Margins" -- stuff of the Smiths but executed with more elegance ("Who says that's all we are/A careless splotch on the edge of the script/Bleeding through the fibers and encroaching on it"). Together, the melodies, lyrics, and arrangements have a touch of an experimental, Stephen Sondheim quality, folded into perhaps the less-rootsy side of Andrew Bird. It's a constructed sound for sure, meticulous even, but still impactful and direct. For all of its impressive beauty, Licking Wounds is an honest-feeling thing with plenty of potential, not just to wow but to connect emotionally with listeners.

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