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Posted September 4, 2009 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

Fool’s Gold

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The media has an interesting way of molding stereotypes within the music industry, regardless of the feature’s innovation or commitment. If a style, song, or particular theme even slightly resembles a popular mold of the past, there appears to be a lesser form of venerability for whatever artist has succeeded it. Now whenever a contemporary group attempts to implement African stylings into a style highly reminiscent of indie-pop, they come to expect rampant comparisons to a group like Vampire Weekend, even if the differing components between groups is unavoidable to the attentive listener. Most major outlets, from the New York Times to the LA Times, have covered this Afro-pop revival of sorts at one point, often mentioning how Paul Simon’s Graceland was an unmistakeable influence for this band and others on successful stylistic debuts. It is undoubtedly true that Simon holds an influence on many of these groups, which are mostly indie-pop newcomers like Vampire Weekend that have utilized subtle components of the genre to cloak a style that is only minimally different from typical indie-pop. Other contemporary groups like Akron/Family, The Walkmen, and Born Ruffians have used it more commendably, opting to . It is commendable for a group like Vampire Weekend to successfully imitate an exotic style and fuse it with something domestically familiar, but I have always been more enthralled by groups like The Walkmen that attempt the fusion in a subtle, more non-imitable form.

It is hard to blame the press for covering groups like Vampire Weekend to an overbearing extent, as they often cater to an audience that listens to singles instead of albums. One must keep in mind though that their lack of staying power is evident by the lack of diversity within their debut, which is very contrary to the likes of The Walkmen or Akron/Family. These groups include their Afro-pop influences as only one color on a painting full of dozens, while the likes of Vampire Weekend seem rather monochromatic in comparison. The LA-based Fool’s Gold use their adoration for Afro-pop quite prominently, but not to the flawed extent where it comprises the entirety of their audible appearance. What separates them from the rest is their designed usage of differing influences; Afro-pop is used more prominently than Akron/Family’s diversified material, but it is not as in-your-face as Vampire Weekend after they turn from cutely adorable to durably obnoxious. In fact, “world music” might fit more aptly for Fool’s Gold, as they combine everything from middle-eastern folk to jazz fusion. The Afro-pop influence is most prominent, but it is not cloaked under generic shades of Americanized pop music. Fool’s Gold is a collective that is too eclectic, experienced, and ambitious for something like that.

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The members of Fool’s Gold are not exactly strangers to the game of success; they have all, in some way or form, found a fanbase and/or acclaim with previous efforts. The actual number of members seems to fluctuate, but there are usually a dozen or so that accompany frontmen Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov. Pesacov’s guitar work will sound familiar to fans of the previously featured Foreign Born, another one of his fun LA-based indie-rock groups that released a delightful second album this year. His chirpy, concise guitar progressions always recall the glistening heat of summer, complemented by a highly emotive vocalist in both Foreign Born and Fool’s Gold, Matt Popieluch in the former and Luke Top in the latter. Top provides a deeper and more diversified version of Popieluch’s anthemic croon, all while retaining the same sort of youthful exuberance the makes the occasional campfire odes, exotic delicacies, and other forms of experimentation within the material of Fool’s Gold that much more accessible. Sharing a common love for both American pop music and the open-mindedness to explore music from other countries, the mutual ideologies and skills of Pesacov and Top make them appear as if they were destined to work together. Fool’s Gold self-titled debut shows that at the very least, in addition to showing music fans some great world influences touched with a dab of American pop music. In rare an commendable form, it is not vice versa for once.

The Israeli-born Top makes his voice present by using more than his empowering vocal chords. His native Hebrew is actually the predominant language sung throughout Fool’s Gold, an interesting maneuver considering much of the music stems from African influences. As someone not even slightly familiar with the language, though, I can say that the accentuation adds wonderfully to the components of Afro-pop, most noticeably the backing vocals and constant percussion that echo the genre’s traditions beautifully. “The World Is All There Is” is a track that is arguably most indicative of this, seeing a cast of backing cast following along with Pesacov’s shimmering guitar progression. Sure, Afro-pop is clearly abundant here, but there is an interesting dynamic at play. Pesacov’s guitar, despite its African accompaniment, is more typical of indie-pop, while Top’s Hebrew vocals add yet another beautiful influence at play. Whether this song is played at an African music festival, a bar in NYC, or a hookah bar in Israel, it would likely go over very well.

“Poseidon” presents a keyboard-laden hook that contains a melody more suitable for the Far East, adding to the group’s exotic allure in an even grander sense. One of the most captivating tracks, though, is the excellent “Yam Lo Moshech”, a highly infectious fusion of dance and new-wave pop that uses some explosive brass and an impressively evolving rhythm section to construct one of the most impressive tracks on the album. “Surprise Hotel” is quite fun as the album’s opener, even if it lacks differentiation from Foreign Born or many similarly entitled acts. Still, it is an infectious effort that grows enough to deserve its imminent airplay. Latter efforts on the album, like “Yam Lo Moshech” and “Night Dancing”, expose the group’s more experimental side with bursts of brass and even larger doses of unpredictability, eventually becoming more rewarding despite their initial cautions. Backed by a cast that includes members of a variety of bands, from We Are Scientists to The Fall, the tight musicianship on Fool’s Gold creates a very organic feel that is caused by the meshing of foreign influences and quality songwriting that has no reliance on sparkling production or overly elaborate tactics. It is an album that will grow on listeners by itself, eventually revealing itself as one of the most intricately impressive releases of the year.

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Fool’s Gold – Surprise Hotel

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/fgold-sur.mp3]

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Fool’s Gold – Yam Lo Moshech

***TRACK REMOVED UPON REQUEST OF IAMSOUND RECORDS***

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Fool’s Gold – Night Dancing

***TRACK REMOVED UPON REQUEST OF IAMSOUND RECORDS***

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Fool’s Gold – The World Is All There Is

***TRACK REMOVED UPON REQUEST OF IAMSOUND RECORDS***

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Mike Mineo

 

I’m the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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