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CD of The Week

Week of 4/25/22

    Fontaines D.C. - Skinty Fia (Partisan)

    For their third album Skinty Fia, Fontaines D.C. again find new ways to reinvent themselves. The album plays like a somber rollercoaster, filled with highs and lows and plenty of twists and turns to keep the listener engaged. If 2020’s A Hero’s Death was a great leap forward in progression, then Skinty Fia continues that trend.

    The opening track sets the tone perfectly. "In ár gCroíthe go deo," Gaelic for “In Our Hearts Forever,” begins with just a single bass note and vocal harmonies. By the midway point in the song, the crescendo has built to a breaking point in a beautiful mess of sound. The track conjures up images of Joy Division, The Fall, The Chameleons, and a host of other 80s UK post-punk bands.

    With an opening track like that to set the stage, it is easy to hear the foreboding sense of disquietude throughout. This likely has everything to do with the band relocating from Dublin City (D.C.) to London. Leaving home to be an outsider is never easy and a lot of the lyrical and musical content here is pulled from these feelings. A trio of songs plays directly on these emotions. “Bloomsday,” itself an actual Irish holiday celebrating the life of author James Joyce, is singer Grian Chatten’s inadvertent goodbye to his home and “Roman Holiday” details the attempts of young Irish lovers trying to make London their own.

    All these sentiments culminate in the album’s most ambitious track “The Couple Across the Way," an Irish Trad tune that again dials back the instrumentation and turns up the ambition. Featuring a simple accordion and vocals, Chatten’s lyrics explore the juxtaposition of hearing an older married couple’s arguments just as he himself is on the verge of marriage. Heartbreaking, hopeful, and honest, this song is evidently a leftover from an idea to make this record a double album with one half being their usual plugged-in sound and the other half written in the style of Irish traditional folk music. Here’s to the hope that we get to hear that ideally fully realized further down the line.

    There’s lots more to dig into on Skinty Fia. The album’s first two singles (“Jackie Down The Line” and “I Love You”) are both standouts leaving no question as to why they were chosen to represent the album. The album’s closer “Nabokov” breaks tradition and ends on a high note rather than in a more reserved tone as has been the case on their previous albums.

    Despite, or perhaps in spite of, the personal changes happening to the members of the band, Fontaines D.C. continue their artistic progression of their third album. The music on Skinty Fia is ambitious, demanding, and bold. To be unpredictable in music is a tall order that even the best musicians have difficulty accomplishing. But the Dublin-now-London-based quintet does it here with ease, and that itself is the record’s greatest surprise.
    Review by Keith Obaza

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