Megafaun by Megafaun[Released via Hometapes 09.20.11 and still on repeat at Talk Rock To Me.]

Four years, four releases—and one heck of an evolution. Industrious trio Megafaun—comprised of Joe Westerlund and brothers, Brad and Phil Cook—are no strangers to recording, but their self-titled LP is in many ways a first for the band. Gone are the days of three separately talented multi-instrumentalists playing alongside one another: Megafaun is now a full-fledged band with a new release that showcases cohesion, clarity, skill and maturity that can only come from seasoned pros.  A much deeper vein for songwriting is also on display here; the band’s signature experimental elements are still present, but they have been toned down—used to augment rather than flabbergast. More standard than past releases in song structure yet still unique in essence, Megafaun is folk-rock steeped in mystery—and the combination is enthralling.

Megafaun’s opening and closing tracks serve as perfect bookends for what is quite a texturally rich album.  Slow-burning and aptly titled lead track Real Slow is a gentle guitar driven tune; the trio sings in seamless three part-harmony on the chorus, “take your time / and everyone knows / if it starts too fast / it’s gonna end real slow.” Words the band seems to have kept in mind when crafting this release, as these soft reflective moments are some of the LP’s brightest. The emotional closing track Everything, which features vocals from Frazey Ford of The Be Good Tanyas, is especially stunning. Ford’s soulful dove-like vibrato seems to effortlessly dip and soar amongst the lush layers of strings, brass and percussion.

Although experimental elements are present in the majority of the album’s songs, its most unique track (and clear nod to Megafaun’s loyal followers) is the wonderfully weird Serene Return.  The short instrumental track bloops and blips, lingering just long enough to arouse the listener’s thoughts before blending into hushed country tune You Are the Light.  Another noteworthy album surprise is the jazzy Isadora; the nostalgic and Christmassy (yes, Christmassy) track seems to sneak up out of nowhere. Emotionally and melodically, this LP is full of twists and turns. Though the tracks rooted in folk are the band’s strongest; the introspective Scorned features a wailing harmonica that screams pure, aching loneliness—a feeling that transcends generations—and a reminder that despite ‘progress’, on a purely emotional level, nothing changes.

Megafaun’s only downfall is its duration. One or two tracks shy of the current running (near 55 minute) time would have been ideal. Having said that, it is understandable why the band didn’t want to cut back; all of the songs are worthy of their place and the album is solid enough on a whole that most listeners will forgive the length.

Megafaun have grown, not taller, but broader. Their latest LP’s self-titled-ness makes sense; it feels like an announcement of arrival. Their sound may be tamed a bit, but their vision is ever more expansive and for the first time they have created an album that is as rich in sincerity, as it is in surprise.

— By Amanda Gallagher, freelance writer and wearer of many (tiny) hats.



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