Broken Social scenester Emily Haines returns with another in a long line of power pop albums. But does it grow up and blow us away, or should we forget it? Err, in people?
Fantasies begins as well as you could hope; it anchors into your brain with pop hooks so strong that your ears bleed pure sucrose. Single ‘Help I’m Alive’ should probably be renamed ‘Beating Like a Hammer’ considering how catchy its bridge is.
‘Twilight Galaxy’ (the name of the next Nintendo hit?) exemplifies the light melancholic theme permeating this record. ‘Come on baby, I seen all the demons that you got’, vocalist Emily Haines sighs. The song is so sexually pent-up and yearning that it comes off like a femme synth-pop version of Greg Dulli, from Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers (hey, I spy a connection). And that, my friends, is a good thing.
Our Emily is a bit of a musical chameleon, though. Just as naturally as she recalls 1965 on one tune, she sounds like Sophie Ellis-Bextor (when Soph, is on point, and singing the mighty fine ‘Catch You’ a couple of years back) on the next.
When this record works, it seriously brings the brilliance. ‘Sick Muse’s chorus is ridiculously affecting: not just in the heartfelt rise and fall of the melody, or even the way Emily’s voice softens as it rises. The most emotionally connecting aspect of it is her enunciation. The ‘everybody’ that starts each line is delivered in a touching way that you’re sold on the rest of the chorus. It’s hard to say why it’s so touching, but all that matters in the moment is the fact that it is.
‘I’m not suicidal, I just can’t get out of bed’, from ‘Satellite Mind’ continues the blink-and-you-miss-them, pop-drenched expressions of pain. It’s emotional intensity dressed up as shallowness, which pretty much never fails. See also: Gnarls Barkley’s ‘it’s not just good / it’s great depression’ and Wilt’s ‘see me standing naked in the pain’. On paper none of these lines seem especially good, but it’s the delivery that makes them.
And that’s what makes Fantasies as a whole: the album falls prey to the power pop curse of inconsistency (even the much-loved Weezer debut is only half a classic album), but Haines’ strength of will holds it all together. While it doesn’t quite match the under-rated – in some circles – last Paramore album, Fantasies is compelling and charismatic.