By all means singers, get out there and break the rules. But whatever you do, please please don’t read your emails as a substitute for writing some lyrics. Especially if you are Maine-born one-man-band Peter Broderick and you make a habit out of writing superb lyrics. But infuriatingly, that’s exactly what he does on two out of the ten tracks on this otherwise impressive album as Freyr! – an email from his father about the aforementioned cat going missing, “He was a truly magical cat” his father writes – and I Do This, which includes mundane dialogue such as, “Hi Peter, love this idea. Thanks. Can’t wait to hear some new material,” clog up the disc like overhearing someone’s inane conversation on the train. It ain’t clever and it ain’t entertaining.
According to Broderick, this disc was born out of, “experimenting at home with a microphone and a laptop, recording and uploading new songs for free online, each one alongside a photo and some words, and open to comments from the outside world.” At some point Robert Raths (Erased Tapes label founder) began listening to the tracks and felt ‘compelled to encourage me to compile an album’ he says.
Despite the nasty two clangers, which come near the beginning and end of the disc respectively, it’s great that he did complete it. And anyway, Broderick’s lyrical spamming seems like a minor indiscretion when it comes to the pretentious nonsense of the album’s two-part centrepiece These Walls Of Mine. Part one features Broderick reading what is essentially a diary entry about the act of writing, as he divulges in a monotone voice with no accompaniment: “Every tiny letter I write smiles back at me.” But just when the listener is close to kicking their iPod across the room in delirious bafflement, there comes part two in the form of a rap. Yes, that’s right. Broderick spits the same lines of part one as he drops a beat, tinkles the ivories and even crafts a half-decent R’n’B chorus. This is the moment where the genius steps out of the navel he’s been endlessly gazing into and lets it rip to devastating effect.
Don’t be put off by these four tracks being hard work, because the other six are fantastic and consign Broderick as the lo-fi bedroom auteur to his past. Just listen to the lush opener Inside Out There with its Arthur Russell-esque looped guitar and multi-tracked, delayed background vocals as Broderick quietly and majestically bellows: “The bicycles are covered with snow/ And it looks… fucking beautiful/ These instruments are filled with blood/ And they sure as hell cannot warm themselves”. Or track I’ve Tried with its late-night vibe and slinky bassline which sees Broderick getting a bit whimsical with the line: “In this brave new world the only god is you”. Some of the tunes, which still boast some of the hallmarks of home recordings, are downright funky, such as Proposed Solution To The Mystery Of The Soul which boasts a call and response cameo that wouldn’t sound out of place on a TV On The Radio album. And at other times, Broderick slathers layer upon layer of sonic detritus into the mix, as on Copenhagen Ducks, which acts as a lovely deterrent to subvert the listener’s expectation of yet another quiet introspective tune – until it then breaks down into a gorgeous, multi-tracked and hymn-like a cappella canon.
While it’s worth praising one-time Efterklang member Broderick for his attempts to sing and orchestrate just about everything but the phonebook on this disc, the sheer weight of his most nauseatingly banal tunes obscure the more profound moments of this nerve-shredding, and often successful if slightly madcap, adventure in vocal experimentation. Or in his words: “I love singing. And I love cats.”