The Fresh & Onlys

Long Slow Dance

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You'd be forgiven for thinking that maybe after recording an album or a long EP a year since 2009, as well as members putting out solo and side project albums during that time, that the Fresh & Onlys might be a little tapped out. One listen to Long Slow Dance shows that any fears of that nature are unfounded, and the band has turned in another neo-psych gem. Just as on the previous album Play It Strange, the Fresh & Onlys take a step further away from their murky, lo-fi beginnings, this time sounding slicker, and also more powerful, than ever; as at times, guitars envelop the listener, drums ring out like canon blasts, and Tim Cohen's vocals, while still happily weird, are up front in the mix. Many bands have tried this tactic and failed, the Fresh & Onlys make it work for them by keeping enough of the atmospheric swirl of reverb lurking in the mix, making sure that the guitar sound varies from track to track, and above all, writing killer songs. Cohen seems to have held back some of his best for this album, including some seriously catchy songs that jangle like classic '80s college rock, especially the complexly arranged psychedelia of the Church. The relaxedly dreamy "Presence of Mind" is one of these; the sprightly "No Regard" is another. Poppiest of all, though, is the midtempo "Dream Girl," which features a supremely hooky vocal melody and an excellent fingersnaps/vibraphone breakdown. These moments of sweet pop that make up the bulk of the album are balanced by fierce tracks that burn through the speakers ("Euphoria," "Yes and No") in a blaze of fretwork, and quieter songs like the title track and "Executioner's Song" that are built around acoustic guitars and deliver a more nuanced punch. The band even stretches out on the epic length "Foolish Person," jangling smartly on the first half and then charging into a long section where the guitars tangle and howl in a fiery duel that never flags. The three song types blend together perfectly and the album flows smoothly from start to finish. Even though Long Slow Dance sounds one coat of studio gloss away from a Mitch Easter production, the strength of the songs and performance mean the band is still working as well as ever, maybe even better, and Long Slow Dance stands as their most satisfying album to date.

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