Plumbiferous Media

Laugh, It’s a Fright - The Chairs

Apr 16th 2009
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Laugh, It's a Fright - The ChairsThe Chairs
Laugh, It's a Fright
Score: 84

Though The Chairs has been mak­ing music for under a year, they’re doing quite well. Cur­rent­ly unsigned, they’re not only indie in genre but in state - and yet they man­age to eas­i­ly sound as good (and much bet­ter) than many signed bands. Their first full-length album, Laugh, It’s a Fright, was released dig­i­tal­ly on the 13th. The Chairs quite obvi­ous­ly has a great deal of poten­tial - and they use it, cre­at­ing one of the best albums released this year.

One of the imme­di­ate­ly strik­ing com­po­nents that makes The Chairs such a great band is that the gui­tarists actu­al­ly know what phras­ing and dynam­ics are (no, dynam­ics are not “loud” and “loud­er”). And they play elec­tric gui­tars! Indeed, it is appar­ent­ly pos­si­ble for elec­tric gui­tarists to play musi­cal­ly. But musi­cal­i­ty is only part of what makes the heav­i­ly (but not in excess) processed album so unique. It would not be sur­pris­ing to hear that most of the musi­cians had clas­si­cal the­o­ry train­ing, giv­en the impres­sive chords and har­monies used on tracks like “Horse with Hoof Guns,” or giv­en the quite con­tem­po­rary - but still acces­si­ble - com­po­si­tion of “The Hip­ster.” Over­all, the album is fan­tas­ti­cal­ly musi­cal, in every sense of the word, and many bands that were formed years ear­li­er than The Chairs could ben­e­fit from lis­ten­ing to Laugh.

Alex Schaaf’s vocals are refresh­ing­ly clear, ener­getic and thought­ful from the moment they come in on the first track of Laugh, It’s a Fright, “This Isn’t a Fire Fortress.” They’re cer­tain­ly aid­ed by the impec­ca­ble tran­si­tion into the vocal sec­tion, but they’d stand alone with­out it. Schaaf’s voice melds per­fect­ly with the tri­umphant instru­men­tals while main­tain­ing a care­ful­ly con­sid­ered bal­ance which nev­er allows his voice to drop too far below the sur­face. Even more impres­sive are the well-exe­cut­ed shifts between vocal styles, from the vivid style which opens the album, to the more plain­tive style of “Horse With Hoof Guns” and “Crooked Con­cu­bines,” and even includ­ing a melod­ic whistling rem­i­nis­cent of Andrew Bird. Each of the styles is adept­ly com­posed, and Schaaf mod­i­fies his voice effort­less­ly to match the ebb and flow of the music.

The lyrics accom­pa­ny­ing Schaaf’s voice are near­ly as good, and The Chairs is espe­cial­ly apt at cre­at­ing the puz­zling but entic­ing images which pop­u­late the album, from the “Horse with Hoof Guns” to the “Crooked Con­cu­bines” of those two tracks. The Chairs build excit­ing, dynam­ic tracks around these imag­i­na­tive foun­da­tions - and when they say “If you’re intox­i­cat­ed by pret­ty ros­es / If you are quick to think of too many pos­es” it actu­al­ly makes sense, as ludi­crous as it may seem.

The Chairs has put a great deal of effort into sculpt­ing the curi­ous tales behind the album, and it shows. The “straight lines,” “sacred shrines,” and “twist­ings of the spine” which make up “Crooked Con­cu­bines” are an excel­lent exam­ple of the detail which com­pris­es the engross­ing sto­ries of Laugh, It’s a Fright. Aside from a few miss­es on “Glam­orous Sweat,” The Chairs has filled this album with gems of lyri­cal innovation.

But not only is Laugh, It’s a Fright impres­sive from a pure­ly musi­cal stand­point, but an engi­neer­ing stand­point as well. In record­ing the album, not only did the band not have a pro­duc­er, label, sound/mixing crew, or pro­fes­sion­al sound tech­ni­cians, but the band also decid­ed not to use a stu­dio for the most part. That’s right, most of the album, which sur­pass­es many pro­fes­sion­al­ly pro­duced indie albums in pro­duc­tion val­ues, was record­ed in a dorm room next to the band’s ham­ster, Margot.

While there are a few tracks on the album that sim­ply don’t match up to the strength of the best tracks, whether due to prob­lem­at­ic lyrics, over-repet­i­tive­ness, or a slump in musi­cal­i­ty and direc­tion, Laugh, It’s a Fright is quite sim­ply one of the best debut albums we have heard in quite a while. We can only hope that the band will learn from its impres­sive­ly small num­ber of mis­steps, and we look for­ward to an amaz­ing sec­ond album.

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One Response

  1. Alex says:

    This is Alex from the Chairs. Just want­ed to say this is real­ly great, and we real­ly appre­ci­ate you writ­ing about us! hope we can stay in touch! we linked to this from our website.

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