Lo-fi dream pop singer-songwriter Jacob Faurholt - aka Crystal Shipsss - releases his second LP today, and it’s a bit of a handful. Dirty Dancing is a psychedelic, schizophrenic selection of sounds, which tracks a stilted journey between whiny folk and bizarre electronica. There are two elements of this record that can make it a challenging listen. Firstly, the frantic switching between moods and methods, and secondly, Faurholt’s vocal.
Such frequent diversions from a reliable sound make for a lack of trust between artist and audience; there is no single strand to hold and follow. And while experimentation and variety are often key to an album’s success and longevity, there’s a realistic limit, after which the remaining tracks bleed into one confused mesh of noises. Faurholt’s fondness for distortion and reverb don’t help the situation either.
His singing voice has been compared to Conor Oberst’s and Brian Molko’s. You get the picture – slow delivery, sharp tonal quality, a generally labour-intensive affair. While Oberst sets his feathery, embarrassed voice on top of a fragile accompaniment, and Molko confidently revels in his vocal and musical accuracy, Faurholt’s doesn’t sit so easily within the music he makes. Alongside genre-bending instrumentation, rhythmic chaos and low drones, his casual, haphazard delivery and shrillness don’t gel.
‘Screaming Teens’ and ’18 Years Old’ are probably the least accessible tracks, both too loopy and sporadic to have any direction. But there are some beautiful moments amidst the madness. ‘I’m Not Insane’ opens with mellow acoustic guitar, a welcome relief from the previous tracks’ drawn-out electronica, and features Faurholt’s dreamy falsetto. The honest, vulnerable lyrics decorate a simple melody, a set of musical circumstances that really suit the band and highlight their strengths. ‘Dad’ is the record’s strongest song, a smooth acoustic flow with, again, some more focused lyrics, and just a faint scent of electronica thrown in to complement the main event.
It feels like an album that has been written and produced too quickly, as if it was written in a day, charting morning grogginess, afternoon peak, nighttime raving and morning after paranoia. Certainly Crystal Shipsss have been too hasty in releasing records in the past; if it wasn’t a lack of time spent in production, it feels like a lack of time spent reflecting on what this album is supposed to be. As it stands, it doesn’t have a strong enough sense of identity and purpose to be really gripping.
5Anna Byrne's Score