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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