Fancy Colors

Near Equator

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Brooklyn's Fancy Colors is drummer Dave Heilman and jack-of-all-trades (Zac-of-all-trades?) Zac Colwell, who with collaborators including producer Steve Wall have created an impressive, escapist neo-psychedelic debut. Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Colwell has described Near Equator's inspiration as a supernatural experience he had while falling asleep to the sounds of animals under the floor of his home. The album does have an otherworldly quality attained partly by lyrics, and partly by taking minor liberties with form, but especially by instrumentation. Alternating layers of guitars, synthesizers, percussion, background vocals, woodwinds, strings, and trippy effects remove the sound from the realm of the tangible throughout. This is not to say that the songs get bogged down in ambition; the album is loaded with hooks and moments of clarity. Rather, the songs entice and build, take unconventional turns, and achieve an engaging album-length listening experience. The record is also super-sexy, from the sultry, radio-ready "The Way You Walk Away" to the infectious "Never Found," a new wave treat that recalls the best of Ultravox and Talk Talk. "Last Summer" is another standout that features Heilman, a creative drummer whose versatility is evident throughout the album. Here, the relentless, evolving drum rhythms build slowly to a frenzy -- a primitive percussion panic that tells the song's anxious story in tandem with the succinct lyrics. The closer, "Driftin' on a Cloud," a work on loss and remembrance, incorporates pedal steel twang, pop hooks, and shifting meters and tempos to beautiful, transportive effect. If Near Equator were a film, its genres would be both fantasy and adventure, and its best possible tagline is provided by the band, which encourages on the back cover art, "Meant to be played in the dark."

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