#381 Ferns – Dismay

The weather in this part of the world is pretty straightforward but never predictable, something that applies rather well to the new climate-themed album by Malaysian band Ferns. While their debut On Botany strove admirably for the laziest perfection, Fairweather Friends goes for a clearer distillation of their winsome dreampop sound. Yet, it’s not so much about a more polished studio production, but the band’s intent at taking their music beyond just that sound. And as with the weather, surprises are aplenty especially with frontman Warren Chan’s whispery vocals vacillating between newfound confidence and vulnerable brittleness.

Following the featherweight melodies of the opening title track, “Miss Stormcloud” introduces the band’s crisp, glistening and upbeat pop, and along with it the album’s foremost protagonist – the “girl who’s good at bringing out the rain“. The meteorological themes that follow in the album serve as open-ended allegories for shifting hues of emotions (“When the clouds turn grey / she keeps sunshine at bay“) and commentaries on the localised condition of the heart (“Sweltering hearts wandering round in a tropical haze / a physical ailment these days“). Regardless of the literary device deployed, the lines delivered are personal and cleverly honest.

Today I’m okay / but tomorrow, forecast gloom and sorrow“. In “Dismay”, Chan’s voice comes close to trembling point, quivering at the thought of what lies ahead. Tragically, it seems that any declaration of love comes just too easily to shoulder the weight of the impending storm, with the sentiment here expressed with the fullest certainty and most gripping fear. It’s with at least a drizzle of irony that consolation is sought: “I could use some warmth“. Such a powerful moment here, that for me captures most succintly the album’s understated beauty. – Dan.

Ferns – Dismay

Fairweather Friends is out now on both digital and CD formats on Bandcamp.


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