June 6, 2016
Released On August 19, 2008
Released By The Easy Company
The year was 2008. Many things were about to change. Barack Obama would soon become the next President of the United States. Charlton Heston, Bo Diddley, Estelle Getty (the best Golden Girl), and Heath Ledger would all sadly leave us. Beyoncé and Jay-Z married and strengthened their role as the power couple of the world. I was in my mid-20s and making the difficult and angst-filled transition to adulthood. My personal life was in the midst of inner turmoil. I was undergoing huge life changes, dealing with a job that I hated, learning to live on my own, and had my heart broken for the very first time in my life.
I had never heard of Farewell Flight before seeing them perform a small show at The Camel in Richmond, Virginia. I was there to see the opener (to this day I don’t even remember who that opener was). I decided to stay for Farewell Flight and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The band captivated the room with their songs of heartache and growing up. After the show, I had a nice conversation with one of the band members at the merch table. I told him what a great show they did and he quickly sold me on buying their album Sound.Color.Motion. Little did I realize the impact this record would have on my life.
From the opening notes of “A Lullaby For Insomniacs,” I was immediately entranced by this album and couldn’t stop listening. I soaked in every word from “Phones‘” distress of slowly losing someone close to having your innocence and naivety fade away in “Cruel.” “America Will Break Your Heart” spoke to my frustration with all the negativity during this election year (although after seeing the 2016 ridiculousness, I would gladly go back 2008’s election coverage). I would listen to the heart-wrenching lines of “Widower” on repeat (“My youth is quickly passing by / turning 35 / still sleep alone at night / will I be alone for all my life?”) and try my damnedest not to break down and cry.
There are few albums I can say that I have fallen in love with. Farewell Flight’s Sound.Color.Motion. is perfect in my eyes. The words… the haunting music… the simple yet elegant way of presenting complex emotions… And my favorite part was that not many people knew about this record, so it felt more personal to me. If I never came across this record, I can’t imagine what would have happened to me in 2008 onward.
Don’t let their generic ’00s alt-look fool you; these guys are the ambitious answer to the meandering emotive rock that preceded them.
Sound.Color.Motion. is supposed to be ironic. It is. The title alone suggests fun, action, vibrance. But then Farewell Flight pull the old bait & switch: Sound.Color.Motion. is actually Sobbing.Grey.Depression. (Or is that the old Switcheroo? Never mind.) This may be the most depressing record I’ve heard in at least a decade. But how about this for a switcheroo… that’s actually a good thing! Music and art is about emotion. It’s about connecting with people through shared experiences, good or bad. This very second, I am taking a break to write this review while packing for my best friend’s little brother’s wedding. He’s 28. I’m 33. The band addresses this exact circumstance (kind of) on “Widower,” a mirror-like chronicle of what it’s like to be still single at 35. Even more cruel is… “Cruel,” with one of the album’s most sullen moments: “when we were kids we would always like the cutest girls in town / I never thought about / what would happen if I ended up with one / and then she left me for a man more suited to her needs.” I have. Anyone else want to use the mirror? I also dig this album from a stylistic perspective. The band lets the songs and lyrics shine. The songs are streamlined, with no unnecessary noise to distract from the heavy vocals. The timid, electronic drum programming at the opening of “Indianapolis” reminds me of something that Fred Armisan would do. Just entertaining enough to keep you engaged, but you know things can get weird, sad, and lonely at the drop of a hat.
When I listen to an OYR selection for the first time, like I did with this week’s selection by Farewell Flight, I do it blindly, staying off the internet and to enjoy the record. During that first listen, I formulate a thesis or introduction in my head — the angle at which I want to examine the record. For all subsequent listens, I have ten or so tabs open — Genius, Wikipedia, Pitchfork, et cetera — while I write my piece. I mention this, dear readers, not because you care, but because I did not get through the fourth song on Sound.Color.Motion. (“Indianapolis“) before I had Wikipedia open, so convinced was I that I was listening to a spin off of Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos, whose first two records remind me so much of Sound.Color.Motion. That band, you see, is from Indianapolis, so I thought I had made the perfect connection! I found no such connection, except a similar backstory (one central singer-songwriter), years of formation (2004 for M&TNS&S and 2003 for FF), and the fact they are both from capital cities (FF began in Harrisburg). Instead of listing similarities I see in both bands (I can’t shake this Margot thing, you guys), I will just write about Sound.Color.Motion.‘s greatest strength: excellent, dynamic, song structures with strong choruses. It’s a whole record of songs that actually go somewhere — I don’t know why that’s becoming so rare. There’s added instrumentation (well-placed keyboards, strings), and fantastic backing vocals, which contribute to the big, full sound. You can hear in every detail that Luke Foley & co. spent a lot of time carefully crafting, recording and putting together Sound.Color.Motion. Enjoy this rare unicorn of a record — it will make for awesome driving music once you learn all the lyrics.
“I’m turning 35, and I still sleep alone at night. Will I be alone for all my life?” This line from the chorus of “Widower,” track 2 on Sound.Color.Motion., was pretty much all I needed to find myself intensely loving this album. At 40, I’ve been asking this question for a long time, and getting progressively less sure that the answer will be anything other than “yes.” I’m still fighting against the idea that I should be “waiting for my turn to die,” though, and writing for this newsletter is one of the many ways I attempt to deny death every single day. It can get kind of sad when you feel like you’re going through life without a partner, though, and “Widower” does a remarkable job of capturing that feeling, and making me feel a little less alone. I must say, I like some of Farewell Flight’s acoustic pop gems more than others; it feels to me like this album starts strongly and then slowly tapers off as it proceeds. However, any record frontloaded with such a musically memorable, lyrically relatable downcast-pop classic will always have a place in my heart.
Farewell Flight’s strongest asset comes from lead singer Luke Foley’s composition of his songs. Upon my first listen of Sound.Color.Motion., I couldn’t really put my finger on what I liked about it. It was only on my second listen that I realised it was all because of Foley. His ability to structure a song, to know when to lead with a piano or use a synth, and even when to break up a song with rhythm-guitar all elevates the tracks and the record as a whole. His songwriting may tread on familiar relationship grounds, but the melancholy of his vocals combined with stellar guitar work make Farewell Flight’s first album one I wholly recommend. The record veers between indie and Americana, but I found Farewell Flight to be a perfect summer accompaniment. With holiday season in full swing, amongst your travel essentials, taking Sound.Color.Motion. with you is a no brainer. Stand-out track for me was “Begin Again,” a terrific indie-pop track with strong vocal work from Foley. Sound.Color.Motion. isn’t an easy album to track down in its original form (the majority of songs from this record appeared on their sophomore album Out For Blood), but it’s a great record that deserves its place amongst your collection.
James Peart (@choccyr)
Fascinated Binger Of Musical Zeitgeist
Does anyone have Farewell Flight’s Luke Foley’s phone or email so we can check in and see if he’s OK? Here’s a sampler of some of his lyrics on Sound.Color.Motion: “Concur if you’re at home and you’re getting drunk alone / In front of the TV, stonefaced and falling asleep.” (“A Lullaby For Insomniacs“) “Turning thirty…five and still sleeping alone at night / Gonna be alone for all my life.” (“Widower” – and can we talk about that ellipsis between “thirty” and “five? Guy’s taking it hard!) “It’s true that for you I’m bad news / I’m just drunk all of the time / Why don’t you do yourself a favor / And just stay the hell away from me.” (“Indianapolis“) And we’re not even halfway through the album! The level of Foley’s self-pity and self-recrimination is so outsized that we depend on the musical details to save the day. Some of the pleasures to be found on this richly detailed debut are unexpected autotune, breakbeats, handclaps, a little sweet cello, and a drummer who kicks the hell out of every song. “I am nobody’s son / I know that ship has sunk / I’m worthless / and I’m a drunk,” Foley sings in “Sailor’s Mouth,” and the fact that he turns his self-loathing into a sing-along makes me think he’s going to be OK after all — because that’s kind of funny. If you can laugh at yourself, even just a little, the darkness can be kept at bay. The last song, “Slow,” is a slow-build beauty, shot through with hope and just begging to be mashed up with the title track to Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain. Keep climbing, boys.
Watching them live really shows how non-formulaic these straightforward songs actually are.
Andy (the fine gent who wrote that intro up at the top of this issue) put “Widower” on a “Best of 2008” mix 7.5 years ago and, like a fool, I didn’t investigate the band upon hearing it. What else have I neglected from that mix? It’s part of a pattern that I’m trying to correct where friends and family members suggest stuff that they think I might dig and then they get absolutely no feedback from me for years. And occasionally, I’ll come to them on fire about something they suggested years and years ago and they have to figure out just how much they’re going to hold me over the fire about my tardiness. I pray that Andy will be merciful. This album is fantastic. It has precisely the kind of lyrical storytelling that draws me in and some of the most electrifying musicianship I’ve heard all year. “Widower” is heartbreaking, of course, but I think it’s “Cruel” that cuts straight to the quick. The comparison of “winning” the prettiest girl in town and then losing her to falling from a great height is so perfect. And that quick break of “T-R-O-U-B-L-E, yeah we got what you’re looking for” halfway through “Indianapolis?” That kind of stuff is my lifeblood and this album is chock full of that kind of stuff.
Growing up in Lynchburg, VA, I was surrounded by Christians making music and I’ve shared the stage with many Christian-emo/metal/core/rap/rock/scremo-whatever bands. My experience has been that the people making music that just happened to also believe in Jesus (not labeling their work with a capital C), were usually making better and more interesting music. Farewell Flight lands on the fence though. Are they truly a Christian rock band tailor made for opening endless Relient K type tours, or is the bigger limelight more appealing? Making it in the music business, whatever might be left of it in 2016, is hard for everyone. Maybe Luke’s struggle with his religious beliefs versus his career aspirations is what makes his work relatable.
After the first couple of listens to Farewell Flight’s debut record, I was feeling kind of apathetic to their sound and not really enjoying the experience. It felt like a middle of the road album that is perfect for a romantic film when the characters finally realise they are in love. In the bid to find something redeeming in the music and lyrics, more listens were definitely required. It then dawned on me why this sort of music is perfect for the aforementioned medium — it all lies in the production. It’s what lifts a fairly basic formula into being something more than the sum of it parts. That is where the enjoyment in this record resonates for me. It’s like that moment in Scrubs when J.D is delivering his episode ending monologue. The production is such that everything is lifted atmospherically, for a lack of a better term, as each individual element sparkles from Luke Foley’s heart wrenching vocals, specifically in “Widower.” The guitars are a set alight from their acoustic boundaries and the way piano drives most of the tracks on the album is superb, with chimes dancing teasingly in and out. What is admirable throughout the album is the work that has gone into making something that at its base could be very bland. It’s the finishing touches adorning each song that make it a more than worthwhile endeavour from Farewell Flight.
Matt Green (@happymad1986)
Fiery Orator Of Nostalgia
Not going to lie — a little uncomfortable seeing Luke Foley so close to a rope.
It’s easy to forget, given how badass rock stars got in the second half of the twentieth century, that one of the genre’s key ingredients has always been vulnerability. Insecurity about being (or not being) attractive helped push Roy Orbison’s voice to operatic heights. Thom Yorke’s misanthropic paranoia is believable in part because of how thin and breakable he sounds when he sings about it. Early rock especially had lots of crying, begging, pleading… like some sort of race to relationship rock bottom. Farewell Flight’s Sound.Color.Motion. would have fit in perfectly. Vulnerability is everywhere — by the end of the first track the narrator is already asking someone to “Come back and keep me alive.” Can’t get much more defenseless than that. There’s talk of kids falling out of trees, of people being left for better partners — it’s a vulnerability sampler platter. But the feeling comes through clearest when Luke Foley sings “I don’t want to put up a fight” near the end of “Sailor’s Mouth.” His voice wavers, and I’m not sure you can even identify which note he’s singing. It’s shaky. Naked. It strikes me as totally earnest. Sound.Color.Motion. is an enjoyable listen for a number of reasons — the varied instrumentation, the catchiness of songs like “America Will Break Your Heart” — but it’s at its best in the narrator’s worst moments, because honesty and rock bottom often go hand-in-hand. (Job interviews aren’t the only place you can turn your greatest weakness into a strength.)
This is my first introduction to Farewell Flight, which comes as a mild surprise. The songwriting of Luke Foley would seem to have been right up my alley in 2008. There was a strong collective of singer-songwriters stirring around Richmond and Foley’s sensibilities would have fit in nicely within that niche. Sound.Color.Motion. is a great calling card for the project. Foley is the focus and it felt like each song was built for this in mind. Also, they considered what opportunities were available in the studio and would worry about how to recreate that live later. “America Will Break Your Heart” is surrounded by orchestral strings and bells that elevate the song from just being a strong chord arrangement with polished vocals. Where “America” feels like a solid folk song with smart wordplay, “Cruel” feels like it could have been the reaction to pop-punk influentials like Brand New. Knowing Foley’s wheelhouse is half the fun of listening to Farewell Flight’s debut and the game of guessing who might have inspired what is great. In floating back to the idea of how this could have fit in Richmond, I could see this in two ways. In 2008, this feels like it could have been right at home sharing a stage with David Shultz and the Skyline or The Thirds. If the band were to venture to town in 2016, I could see them playing on a bill with Lightfields or any number of rock bands that aren’t easily categorized. This release offered a nice reflective vantage point of where my musical interests were vested close to ten years ago. After a quick read on the history of the group, I am curious to check out other releases to see how the band’s sound progressed in the time since this release.
I struggle with where to place this one. It’s pretty and polished, nary a blemish in fact. One after another the ballads role on in perfectly studied Nashville fashion. The spectres of Chris Martin and Ben Gibbard can be found lurking around every corner. It’s just the right mixture of melancholy and youthful yearning to be appealing if not merely agreeable to almost anyone who is a fan of the distilled radio-indie sound. There’s a smooth veneer upon which it’s difficult to find a substantial purchase. But I’m often heady and jaded when sometimes one can to step back and let things be. And what can this album be? A soundtrack for a sunny day picnic with a lovely friend (Well, except maybe “Over,” or just tune out the lyrics and nod your head). Play it while sitting on your porch during a rainy day with your favorite novel. Pop it in the stereo and go for a scenic drive. Put it in your ears and look at a Manet. It’s crafted to be all these things and wants to find a home in your heart. There are time when I need to remind myself just because something is pleasant, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try.
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way right of the way: the moment that the autotune kicks in on “Widower” is a better plot twist than we’ve gotten in any of the superhero movies this year. Seriously, I was pretty sure I knew what I was getting into about halfway through track 1 and I had begun adjusting my mind into “lament-y guitar music” mode, but then all of the sudden things went all Hellogoodbye and I’m so on board. I’m really vibing to “Indianapolis.” I love the easy-going way that it snowballs, picking up new sounds along the way. This is really just an insanely zen album. Been having some anxiety this morning and the lovely little piano outro on “Phones” kinda just convinced me that everything is gonna be alright. An aside: “Trying to find myself on cute girls’ lips” is the realest thing I’ve heard in a bit. Really digging the sequencing throughout the album, every song seems like it’s the only logical follow-up to the previous track. “I had no qualms about giving her my heart: I gave her everything”, “The Usual Vernacular” is three minutes of effortless cool. I’m trying to peg down a way to describe the lyricism throughout this album. Approachable? It all feels laid back in a way that doesn’t make it seem like it’s trying to be laid back. I feel much better after listening than I did before I started. And that’s exactly what I needed today.
This record is an easy one to dismiss. There are tons of reasons why, each more blatant than the next, but the biggest reason most will dismiss this record is a bit shrouded and requires some examination. Sound.Color.Motion. is as vulnerable a record as they come, and without its honest emotional confessions and declarations, it would surely fall apart. That’s not to say the music in the background isn’t remarkable here. “Phones” is a piano playground on a sunny day interrupted by a few ominous clouds. The automotive cadence of “Over” won me over instantly, something desperately needed after the heart-wrenching “Widower.” And the structure of “The Usual Vernacular” and its fuzzy tone is a late reminder in the album that the band is much more than restrained alt rock. But it is the defenseless lyrics that make all these musical moments truly remarkable and offer the record an allure that anyone who has lived can feel. The problem is admitting you relate to that charm and that’s the biggest reason people will dismiss this record. There are people unwilling to celebrate a record that makes you relate to the personal shortcomings and struggles of a man who just might not be enough… because then you’re admitting you just might not be enough. If you’re the person who can’t accept their own personality flaws, then this is not the record for you. Otherwise, have at it because this is a lyrical record that has to be experienced.
Claim by Not Drowning, Waving
Chosen By Guest Contributor John Schaefer