Fort Frances – The Atlas

Fort Frances has an ethereal vocal sound with a connected, raw acoustic guitar component. The component, almost the opposite of what has become “pop” rock is a strangely familiar and unique sound. Their unique combination of vocals and full band sound make them a fitting addition to many album collections. Fans of what might be called “popular alternative music” such as Pearl Jam or the Red Hot Chili Peppers will find something to like here.

The stripped down sound of the opening song, “Falling Down” immediately exposes the potential of that band. That’s not to say they haven’t “arrived,” but it is to say that there’s an evident range of possibilities. The sky is the limit for these guys. The combination of ambient electronic guitars and vocals really makes the song click.

“City by the Sea” might be the best track on the album. “Let’s turn love into something we can see” is such a simple lyric, but it really drives home an integral philosophical point that influences our daily lives. How do we go about implementing our thoughts of idealism in real life? “I’ll put your record on… let’s turn love into something we can see.” Let’s!

After the clearly rock-influenced openers, the third track “Ripple” comes as a welcome surprise, a classic cover from The Grateful Dead of all bands. From the banjo to the rhythm and even the harmonies, this is a country song… done right. “Would you hear my voice come through the music? Would you hold it near as it were your own? It’s a hand-me-down…” Wow. This is a phenomenal song it its sonic simplicity and lyrical complexity. It’s also a remarkable testimony to the versatility of this unique band.

“Summertime” is probably the most popular sounding song on the album. It has all of the element of a crossover song that many will really enjoy. Instead, I’d like to focus on “The Only Living Boy in New York.” This is an iconic song by Simon and Garfunkel, which sounds like it. The vocals come through perfectly on this recording. I love hearing songs like this come back to life and the Fort Frances version certainly accomplishes that. It’s a wonderful song and performance.

“Guess I’m Doing Fine,” the album’s closer, has a mid-90s rock sound to it for sure. It is slow a melodic, bringing listeners down from an overall upbeat album. What makes the song particularly good, though, is the way the lead singer’s voice gives it a raw quality. It’s like he’s spent his days on the road. It’s like he’s not really doing fine, but whoever he’s written this song for (a lover, perhaps) wants to hear that he’s fine.

Overall this is the kind of album that we love around here. It’s raw but still extremely good. What I mean is that this is a band that deserves more recognition, but isn’t exactly a couple of guys in their garage living out the glory days doing 70s covers. These are talented artists who have captured moments, emotional and nostalgic, in their work. This is a must-listen album for fans of popular alternative rock music and, bizarrely but true, my favorite on the album is the song that doesn’t fit that description at all. Still, give Fort Frances a chance.



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