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Banjo or Freakout
Banjo or Freakout Banjo or Freakout

Released 18 February 2011
Producer Nicolas Vernhes
Label Memphis Industries
Length 43:06
Genre Alternative, indie
Website myspace.com/banjoorfreakout

Banjo or Freakout’s debut album continues the current trend of hazy, melodic, repetitive riff strewn bedroom pop. Typically aimed at the casual listener, Alessio Natalizia has constructed an intimate self reflecting album, much in the same vein of Atlas Sound’s 2008 release Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel but with a  significantly more organic feel. Unlike the name suggests, rather than take the folky approach of Iron and Wine or even Ariel Pink , BoF retains an indie-pop feel with occasional sharp strings, the fashionable cheesy synth and usually well judged rhythmic peaks.

Lyrically solid throughout, a sense of sweet optimism prevails in most tracks in the accompaniment of a typically softly spoken Graham Sutton-like vocal delivery. '105' and 'Go Ahead', the album openers are a solid start. In particular '105',  possibly the best track on the album, with its  swirling, dense soundscapes and frail lyrics combined wonderfully.

'Cant Be Mad for Nothing' is a poor follow up, a promising start (lovely synths) soon descends into repetition of a twenty second stretch that lasts five minutes too long with a  grating vocal delivery and an ill-judged, messy finish.

Both 'Move Out' and 'Idiot Rain' are nice, lazy singster tracks, but ultimately it is their implicit niceness that reveals the tracks’ (and album’s) weakness. 'Move Out' must be credited however for its alternative sugary approach. An odd reference here but for anyone familiar with the nu-jazz trio Beady Belle, 'Move Out' might be your bag. 'Idiot rain' suffers from an over simplification of unenergetic lyrical display, and is also very repetitive and quite forgetful.

Both 'Fully Enjoy' and 'From Everyone Above' continue the downward trend even more so and become a frustrating listen as it seems BoF himself isn’t completely sure of what sound he wants to achieve with this album. Both tracks suffer from a mix of individually nice ideas arranged linearly but in an overall formulaic manner.

Fortunately, the album recovers to a degree with the remaining three tracks, 'Black Scratches', 'Dear Me' and 'I Don't Want to Start All Over Again'. 'Black Scratches' is a track that certainly gives hope for future BoF releases. It’s a haunting ballad that stirs emotions with its fuzzy beauty. The vocals are spot on and the added distortion throughout contrasts well with the sweet vocals. 'Dear Me', the album’s longest track is an excellent one, consisting of solitary strings centred around a gut wrenching wall of tension that seemingly builds towards an epic finish and appropriately fades away leaving the listener wanting for more. The final track begins quite tediously with an unwanted retracing of steps but its eventual transformation into a dreamy hypnotic makes for an ok finish to an ok album.

- Conor Hynds