The Phoenix Foundation Buffalo(Memphis Industries) Buy it from Insound
A couple of weeks ago, I knew nothing of The Phoenix Foundation; even now I can’t tell you much more than the vital statistics: a six-piece indie rock outfit from Wellington in New Zealand. They’re a touch successful in their homeland, picking up various awards whose names are, admittedly, meaningless to me. Since 1997 it seems they have been carefully honing their skills to form a sound somewhere between the likes of Super Furry Animals and Fleet Foxes. Buffalo, their fourth full length, stays true to form, full of ambient, melodic pop-rock; packed with rolling acoustic guitars, steadily sauntering rhythm sections and the odd glockenspiel – you certainly know the type. It isn’t breaking any significant boundaries but I’m sure that’s no bad thing.
From the opener, the psychedelically intoned Eventually, there’s a fluidity to proceedings, not an impatience just a feeling of free, easy motion; and from this leisurely source the rest of the album meanders gently outwards. Buffalo, their current single is one of the finest songs around at the moment and featured as No Ripcord’s Track of the Day on Twitter a few weeks back, it steps the album effortlessly into second gear before building to a euphoric chorus of snug proportions. Following close is Flock of Hearts which displays nicely the inviting vocals of TPFs lead, Samuel Flynn Scott, and features a layered xylophone section suitably akin to the Super Furry Animals’ Northern Lites.
One of Buffalo’s triumphs is its canny ability to introduce you so naturally to their own self-searching moments. For example how across Bailey’s Beach Scott despairs softly “Well, This is no Joke / I really am broke” in consoling bleakness; or on the lounging beach-rock tones of Bitte Bitte it’s with a beautiful innocence he asks “What will we do now that all of the yuppies [have] replaced us?” / “Don’t worry my brother, there’s just one world, but many, many, many places” the reply comforts satisfyingly. They also demonstrate a capability of a slightly darker, more sinister sound on the lurking, menacing Skeleton; one of several tracks that demonstrate a far greater range of aesthetics and tones than might at first be apparent.
This album then is in no way spectacular or ostentatious, but partly because of this there are almost no moments at which it falls flat; and if anything marks out an LP as being not just good, but very good, as well as stepping it away from being a mere collection of songs, it’s an excellently crafted and cohesive consistency. This review is brief (by my often rambling standards) for a reason: bluntly, it gives you more time to go and have a listen because, as Steven Tyler of all people once sang, it only seems right to “let the music do the talking”.21 January, 2011 - 22:51 — Joe Iliff