Dan Friel's 2015 solo album Life (his second for Thrill Jockey) begins with a quiet, whistling lullaby, which is a bit of a headscratcher to anyone familiar with his brand of jagged, noisy electronic music. As it turns out, this is the first album Friel has made since becoming a father. This puts his work into a new perspective, as the aggressive yet colorful and energetic tone always present throughout his work now turns out to celebrate life in a different way than before. As with his days fronting the excellent Brooklyn noise-punk group Parts & Labor, which wrapped up its decade-long reign in 2012, Friel's solo work is harsh and distorted enough to cause one's ears to bleed, but it never sacrifices an affinity for catchy melodies or strong beats. These are candy-coated rhythmic noise pop songs, and they're astounding. Friel pushes his limited, primitive setup (utilizing an arsenal of distortion pedals centered around an ancient toy keyboard) as far as it can go, resembling Dan Deacon with an even more junky, blown-out batch of gear, and the results often sound like Container if he tried to write proper melodic (instrumental) pop songs. On a few tracks, Friel even manages to beat Tobacco at his own game, particularly the lurching, hazy "Lungs," which frantically, excitedly dices and smashes up its own rhythm in its second half. The album's most chiptune-worthy moment turns out to be a cover of "Jamie (Luvver)" by the great Welsh noise-pop group Joanna Gruesome. Closing song "Life, Pt. 2" brings it all home with another overwhelming, ecstatic jam, reveling in the splendor of life despite all of its complexities and frustrations.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson