Brooklyn’s beloved guitar-anthem optimists Fang Island return with an album befitting its title: Major.
Like the painstakingly chiseled marble of the album artwork, Major is hefty, solid, monolithic and regal. Whereas Fang Island described their celebrated 2010 self-titled Sargent House debut as, “everyone high-fiving everyone,” Major is evermore confident, triumphant and brimming with infectious enthusiasm. Its warm harmonies are given proper berth with more expansive dynamics and focused pop song craft.
“One of our core ideas has always been that our songs would be all of your favorite parts of the song that other bands make you wait 8 minutes to get to,” explains guitarist/vocalist Jason Bartell. “We wanted to be the band that’s nothing but your favorite hooks back to back.” Major shows Fang Island deftly achieving that aim.
Kicking off with the overlapping neoclassical piano pirouette and chiming harmonized guitars of album opener “Kindergarten”, Fang Island makes it clear from the outset that this is an album of musical and sonic growth, while at the same time a chorus of voices repeat the mantra, “all I know/ I learned in / kindergarten.” It’s that same unabashed embracing of childlike wonder filtered through visionary artistic sophistication that gives Fang Island its unique charm and sets the tone for this (ahem) major step forward for Bartell, guitarist/vocalist Chris Georges and drummer Marc St. Sauveur. Without a moment’s rest, the definitive summer pop jam “Sisterly” launches the album skyward, led by the thick hook of a wah-wah pedal “chunka-chunka-chunka” riff that’s guaranteed to have listeners busting out their air guitar moves. “Never Understand” revisits the classic Fang Island guitar harmony dogpile while what sounds like a cheery mob repeatedly intones, “I hope I never understand.” Elsewhere, the rollicking anthem “Asunder” quickly builds momentum like a rolling snowball that eventually careens into a summertime BBQ — the explosive payoff as the elements collide is pure pop bliss.
Throughout, Major highlights the band’s endeavor to elevate positivity as an art form. “It’s kind of similar to writing songs about being sad,” Bartell says. “It can come across as simplistic, or easy. Positive songs often run the risk of sounding shallow, but we feel there are a lot of shades and depths to positivity that can be explored.” That exploration becomes clear from the first notes of Major.