Fisherking is a four-piece Sydney band that came to some prominence after winning JJJ’s Unearthed FUSE Festival Competition in 2009. They have previously released an EP and this is their first album. It’s great.
Their own blurb describes their music thusly: “Bringing a fresh new approach to blues ‘n’ roots, FisherKing’s captivating brand of pop-laden acoustic blues and coastal roots has caught the eye of music fans and critics alike.”
It’s a description I don’t entirely buy, largely because the “fresh approach” mentioned is so fresh that I don’t reckon most people hearing it for the first time would think blues and roots. I certainly didn’t, though I can see that that’s where their influences come from.
What I hear is actually a pretty sophisticated rock/pop sound that if I had to find a point of reference I would offer American Music Club, the San Francisco-based band led by singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel. They have that same lush spareness and an ear for unconventional melody, and there is even more than a passing similarity between Sam Stephenson’s vocals and Eitzel’s.
Anyway, forget the comparisons, that just a shorthand way of putting you in the musical ball park. For the most part, the songs are guitar-based ballads, the pace is fairly gentle (though a few songs kick it up a notch), and the band genuinely do try to push the limits of that format.
The thing to note here is that this is a classy album and that there isn’t a bad song on it. The production is also great, nice and clean and spacious, and producer Maynard even gets her Molly Meldrum on during the second-last track, ‘Will I See Your Face Again’, a five minute canon that descends gracefully from gentle acoustic ballad into a swirling, crescendo-building epic in the ‘Real Thing’ mould.
My favourite tracks are ‘Be By My Side’ because I’m a sucker for a good melody, and ‘Circles’, which is the song that most brings to mind (for me anyway) American Music Club. But the song at the top of my list is ‘Together We Are Best’, a first class ballad that was the track that opened up the whole album for me.
You know how when you listen to a new album and it all takes a while to settle down and make sense to you, and that there is just one song that clicks for you and that acts as a gateway into the album? Maybe you don’t, but I often find that with a new album there’s one track I keep going back to while I get my bearings, a Rosetta Stone song that unlocks the rest of the album for me. Well, on this album that song was ‘Together We Are Best’. The beautiful understated harmonies on the back of the gorgeous melody had me thinking that there might be something special about this album.
In Cirlces, Fisherking have produced an ambitious and satisfying debut album. If I have a criticism, I’d say it still feels like they are still finding their musical feet, are not yet at the height of their songwriting powers. But that’s hardly a criticism, is it? It just means, that all going well, this is a band that is likely to go from strength to strength. I hope they do.