Music Reviews
Fairweather Friend

The Umbrellas Fairweather Friend

(Slumberland / Tough Love) Rating - 8/10

Barely a week goes by without someone, somewhere putting out a decent indie-pop record. From impressively consistent labels like Slumberland to bedroom artists lovingly creating homemade cassettes, the music is out there if you know where to look — and it’s still very good. But while the standard of indie-pop may not have fallen, its star certainly has.

Fairweather Friend, the second album from San Francisco quartet The Umbrellas, is the kind of record critics would have raved about ten or fifteen years ago. It’s a lean, dynamic affair, with subtly complex songwriting, killer hooks, and a ton of heart. The band’s progression between records is startling. Singer-guitarist Matt Ferrera described the early Umbrellas music as “sweet and earnest”, but Fairweather Friend is muscular indie-pop, jangle juxtaposed with raucous noise. Lyrically, too, there’s an added bite; opener Three Cheers! talks of backstabbers, “crooked liars and lazy minds”, and “lining up for the guillotine”. Echoes, another standout, tackles fading dreams and aging, inviting the listener to “watch your dreams become an echo down the hall”.

Sure, the audible influence of genre touchstones like Beat Happening, The Pastels, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart might make it easy to dismiss on a superficial listen, but is it fair to expect bands to carve out new sonic terrain in such an established and beloved genre? The originality comes in the sheer songcraft of The Umbrellas; it’s not what they sound like, but how they fuse these sounds together. The first minute of the sublime When You Find Out perfectly encapsulates what I love about Fairweather Friend; this is an idea developed to its maximum potential. The execution is near-perfect.

I hear a lot of good indie-pop records, but truly great ones don’t come around that often. Fairweather Friend is a great record, a genre standout deserving of adoration and acclaim beyond the niche of specialist blogs and, let’s be honest, the No Ripcords of the world. Great songs are still great songs in 2024. If you like those, you’ll love The Umbrellas.