Label: Paper Garden Records Release date: 05/04/10 Link: Myspace With eleven members and this debut album containing 19 tracks, you can be sure that Brooklyn’s Emanuel and the Fear do not do things by halves. With influences ranging from Beethoven to Bright Eyes and Serge Rachmaninov to Sufjan Stevens, the mammoth band now release their first full-length album ‘Listen’ to follow up sold-out hometown shows and coincide with their first European tour. Led by Emanuel Ayvas on guitar, piano and vocals, the record starts with the sound of a thunderstorm and traffic on ‘The Introduction’, before an old jazz record takes over and then some orchestral manouveres, that would not be out of place in a 1930s film, crash in. This all changes when it neatly morphs to ‘Guatemela’ where guitars collide with classical instruments in dramatic fashion. Ayvas’ vocals fall somewhere between Stephen Malkmus and Serj Tankian, on this track at least. You can also play the fun game of spot the instrument – is that a flute I hear at 1:51? The lyrics have a dark yet hopeful tone: “Wake up you people, the world it is changing, step out of your bubble of comfortable air”. This continues on ‘Ariel and the River’, an effects-laden epic with a 60s vibe: “Open up your eyes, take a look at what we’ve seen” ‘Jimme’s Song’ could become the band’s signature, the slow-burner starts with Dylanesque whistling, and tells a story that resonates with every struggling band: “I don’t wanna do nothing but be in a rock band, I don’t wanna do a job, I don’t wanna be a man”. His drawling vocals then assess that life will never be settled if the dream is not achieved. A brutally honest message, I think everyone secretly wants to be ‘Jimme’. The album is interspersed with short instumental/spoken word bursts that help the album flow. ‘Dear Friend’ has a bounciness and jaunty pop angle that is as unexpected as it is delightful, who knew orchestral arrangements could work so well with an electro vibe? This follows on ‘Trucker Lovesong’ with Ayvas particularly menacing, while the instrumentation is, for once, understated. ‘Whatever You Do’ starts with a grand Elbow-style introduction before making way for more theatrical Ben Folds-style vocals. Every band member has the chance to shine, it may be Emanuel’s project but all of The Fear add their own dynamics with the noise made on tracks like this, an affecting ode with a powerful message: “Don’t make the same mistake”. The sincere and autobiographical lyrics keep the sound grounded throughout, especially on the likes of ‘Same Way’ and the menacing ‘Song For A Girl’. The closing ‘Razzmatazz’ goes back to the thunderstorm with an assortment of noises before a spoken-word rant about cellphones with an experimental soundtrack. A suitably odd ending to an enchanting album. Obviously the running time of over 70 minutes makes the album a difficult one to listen to in one go, a shame as it clearly is an album built on its running order but it does flow smoothly despite a mid-album slump. The haunting mish-mash of psychedelia, poetic lyrics, pop and post-rock is tremendously put together and while a little overblown at times, it never gets in the way of the clarity of any song. Mixing The National’s sentimentality with the integrity of Eels, a dedicated cult following already awaits. Emanuel and the Fear’s first album is definitely worth a ‘Listen’, and probably several more. Photobucket What say you on this? Sound off in our Fourum!