For many, 4 Walls is the introduction to the reformed Friends of Foes lineup. New singer Danielle Huot fits into the fabric of the band well. She has a pleasing popular music lilt that could also be heard from previous vocalist Celeste Nicholson, but there is a darker quality to her singing that keeps her from copycat syndrome. The question that remains is, where has the band moved on as a whole, outside of Huot’s singing contributions?
Friends of Foes is no stranger to digital sounds integrated into their music, yet I think 4Walls makes a statement very clearly at the beginning of the song that they are quietly, yet firmly embracing musical technology. The opening snare has a very distinct, yet general “sampled” quality (Is it a Linn or 909 drum machine?) and a digital ghost of Huot repeats her opening lines back to her in various chopped phrases. These clean and calculated instances of electronics point towards the general level of polish and slick production found in the single.
Clocking in at over five minutes, the piece is a bit on the long side for a lead single in mainstream alternative rock. I have no opposition to longer songs because of my jazz background, but I do want there to be things that differentiate the song and pull me in. The leisurely pace of the song and the positive lyrics point towards this being something of a feel-good anthem, but it doesn’t connect with me on that level and as a result the tempo can perhaps feel plodding at times. The choruses never pop quite the way I want, nor do the verses prose draw me in as much as I wish but all the hallmarks of a good song are still there.
Towards the last third of the piece, there is a sudden turn towards what I’ve come to associate with the “Saskatoon Sound”; an instrumental breakdown with an emphasis on off-kilter accents from short, organic timbres dotting into the built atmosphere. This breakdown is probably my favourite part of the piece, which is a bit unfortunate as it is not entirely distinguishable as unique to Friends of Foes. Out of context I would have little difficulty believing the instrumental break is a Close Talker B-side which is both complimentary and a little uncharitable.
So where is Friends of Foes heading? Into a new chapter, with continued exploration of mainstream alternative rock sounds using electronics, a talented vocalist and a tight rhythmic attack. It’s quite honestly not that far from where they were before, a blessing and a curse. I hope it is more the former than the latter.
You can catch Friends of Foes in:
Regina, Friday, November 25th at O’Hanlons OR Saskatoon, Saturday, November 26th at Capitol Music Club.
- Jon Neher