The key to never growing tired of music is to ensure that you always get the right mixture of light and shade and recently I’ve been listening to an awful lot of shade. Good shade. Top quality shade in fact, but my ears have have been crying out for some light. And the ideal provider of light turned out to be Fryars, and his album Power, newly released on Fiction Records.
Fryars is actually Benjamin Garrett, a 24 year old Londoner who has played and written with Lily Allen as well as supporting London Grammar and Wild Beasts.
Planned as “a soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist” (probably to avoid the potential negative connotations linked to the term ‘concept album’) it’s really just a fine collection of sheer, unadulterated, shiny pop music.
In many ways it’s difficult to categorise, showcasing an attention to production detail, by the combined talents of Fryars himself, with Luke Smith and additional production by Rodaidh McDonald (the XX, How To Dress Well and Savages) that’s sadly lacking in many recent albums.
There are some short linking tracks that are a legacy of the concept, but if you strip them away you’re left with 11 tunes that aren’t afraid to mine the same kind of seams mined by some of the great popular music writers of the 1970s combined with the kind of sparkling, clear production styles of the best producers of the 1980s. I’m thinking particularly of Trevor Horn and Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware of B.E.F., all of whom valued, specialised in, and indeed championed their own specific brands of crystal clear recordings. There were never any grubby edges for those three.
If all of this suggests that Power is an old-fashioned album then I’ve given entirely the wrong impression. It’s bright and it’s new and it contains more than its fair share of impressive tunes, all the way from track 2 (the first track is a short introductory instrumental called ‘Power Up’) ‘On Your Own’ which has more hooks than B & Q, through to track 15 (track 16 is a short closing instrumental called ‘Over and Out’) the achingly cool ‘Cool Like Me’.
Along the way there’s the majestic ‘China Voyage’, which, given the album’s soundtrack aims is the only one that sounds like it could have come from an actual film soundtrack, starting like Jean Michel Jarre and finishing like Richard Hawley at his cinematic best. ‘Prettiest Ones Fly Highest’ sounds like it was recorded by The 1975 if they were drawn in summery pastels rather than sketched in charcoal.
But it’s ‘Sequoia’ perched between the moody ‘China Voyage’ and the dreamlike ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’ that has already firmly glued itself to the top of my end of year mixtape (or Spotify playlist or whatever it is that kids do today). It’s bright, sunny and very nearly perfect and, like the rest of this album, it’s just what I needed.
Reviewer: Neil Pace