When the world was first introduced to Freelance Whales four years ago, it was hard for any indie music lover to resist them.
Their weird and serendipitous back story about forming the band on Craigslist, the impressive number of instruments they’re all capable of playing (when’s the last time you heard a glockenspiel and a harmonium at the same time?) and the catchy yet contemplative sound of their debut album Weathervanes, is what made this band so popular.
Even if you’re not an indie fan, but an avid viewer of One Tree Hill, Skins or Chuck, you’ll recognise a song or two playing in the background as Chad Michael Murray breaks up with Sophia Bush for the seventeenth time. With all that they’ve got going for them, it’s a shame that Freelance Whales seem to have suffered the sophomore curse with their latest album.
The main issue with Diluvia is the lack of familiarity. Most bands wait until well after their sophomore album to start experimenting with their sound, lest they alienate their fans.
Never really ones to follow the grain, it appears that Freelance Whales decided to start tinkering with their sound as soon as they possibly could. Weathervanes brought pop to folk by marrying twangy banjo chords with cheerier synthesised beats. On this album, you can almost hear the two separate sounds refusing to mesh.
“Land Features” begins promisingly enough with a few bars of the banjo, but a minute into the song it becomes drowned out by staccato drums and a towering, almost-Coldplay beat complete with a handclap. Most of the other songs like “Follow Through”, “DNA Bank” and “Red Star” continue this way, venturing into unknown territory and ending up feeling uncomfortably mainstream.
There are, however, a few redeeming moments. The band’s dreamy and surreal lyrics are all still there waiting for fans to immortalise them at the back of their notebooks and tweet them with appropriate angst. “Locked Out” almost sounds like leftover material from the first album and that’s not a bad thing at all. The hymnal choruses are also back, with each of the band members contributing to the vocals and giving each song a rounder sound.
Diluvia might divide the staunchest Freelance Whales fans. Some might be offended by the drastic departure from their old sound while others will embrace it. There’s a bigger chance, however, that this album will earn them new fans, because despite how it pales in comparison with their debut album, taken on its own, Diluvia is still a solid effort.