FXRRVST – May XXVI
The Toronto headquartered duo FXRRVST are poised to make major waves on the basis of their debut release May XXVI. Pronounced as ‘forest’, Matthew Fuentes and Holly Forrest have produced a collection that places an equal emphasis on melody as they do alternative rock styled theatrics. The songs, likewise, have a real lyrical depth that reflects Forrest’s influence on the songwriting and it isn’t difficult to appreciate their literary qualities while they remain accessible to the average listener all the while. This is a duo where certain creative responsibilities are clearly set aside for each member, but they nevertheless come together in a seamless accord and never fail to exhibit a naturalness that many of their peers only aspire to. FXRRVST may seem cast in the mold of many other duo acts that have made a mark over the last decade and a half, but this is a shallow impression – even a single pass through of the songs on May XXVI will convince anyone that they are serving up something quite unique.
They are clearly masters of a traditional approach as well. “Road to Nowhere”, musically, isn’t anything that experienced music listeners haven’t heard before, but they imbue it with their own spark that makes it sound fresh and different when compared to similar efforts. Despite the often tempered sound of the album, this song is the first example of how FXRRVST builds tracks in a way quite reminiscent of how rock songs are constructed. Despite this, there’s a singer/songwriter aesthetic discernible on each of these tracks, sometimes weaker, sometimes stronger, but always present. “Drown Me” takes the duo much deeper into straight forward alternative rock and Holly Forrest delivers an impassioned vocal performance, but Fuentes matches her with a full on blazer thanks to his incendiary six string playing. The slightly more commercialized sound continues with the album’s first single “Tidal Wave” and the occasional backing vocals that distinguish a number of songs bring a lot of added beauty to this number.
“Safe House” is an interesting number much more solidly in a folk vein than the other numbers on May XXVI, but it doesn’t neglect to incorporate some of the duo’s standard electric guitar flourishes. The acoustic guitar melody that begins the song continues throughout the entirety of the track and does much to shape the mood of the performance. The musical mood is a little brighter on the next track “June 8th”, but Forrest gives one of her most emotive singing performances on the album and a close listen to the words illustrates that the songwriting hasn’t necessarily embraced brighter days with this tune. “Roofs” memorably begins with Forrest’s voice synced up nicely with mandolin playing before it switches gears into one of the most vibrant band arrangements on the release. The aforementioned quality of dynamics resembling those we might hear from rockier numbers and it mixes well again, for a final time, with the duo’s lighter more melodic qualities. May XXVI is an outstanding first release from this pair and let’s all hope they are only getting started.