Premiere: FLKL Perform Musical Magic On New Album, Fistful

 In News

Why did FLKL name their new ambitious record Fistful? Is it because the vibrant songs are an audible representation of holding an abundant amount of musical sounds and styles in one’s hand? Is it because their songs all pack a forceful musical punch in one way or another? Or are the band members just huge fans of Sergio Leone’s 1964 Spaghetti Western film A Fistful Of Dollars… which would explain their messy pasta album cover? Only the band knows for sure. But what I can tell you is that I’m not entirely sure the band grasps what the word “fistful” actually represents for this collection of music. To this reviewer, the true meaning of “fistful” is magical… in a practical sense, because Fistful is musical sleight of hand from top to bottom.

Each song on Fistful seems to start simarily. A notion is presented in full view without any gimmicks. We observe it, we scrutinize it, and we understand it. But this notion is then placed into one of FLKL’s musical hands, shuffled around in front of our eyes (or ears), and presented to us in a rudimentary “guess the hand” query. Here, we view two fists in front of us, one potentially holding nothing and the other holding that simple initial concept. But the truth is that all of the shuffling was just misdirection, and the simple idea has turned into something massive and powerful that’s housed within both hands closed in front of us. Like the timeless “cups and balls” routine, what seemed to house nothing in fact contains a musical treasure trove, and that’s precisely the case for every song on Fistful. Impressive, to say the least, this makes Fistful a musical wonder and an album The Auricular is overjoyed to premiere one day before its official release.


For those who love figuring out the ins and outs of magic tricks, don’t worry. It’s not hard to hear exactly what FLKL is doing here. That’s not to say it’s simple or rudimentary. On the contrary, it’s intricate and delicate, but it’s all being done in plain view before our ears, just like the best sleight of hand performers have always done. The quartet’s calling card is their unique mixture of garage, folk, and surf tendencies within the umbrella of rock music. Obviously, in the history of music, they were not the first to combine these genres. Hell, The Beach Boys were combining folk, surf, and doo-wop out of a literal garage in the early ’60s. But the way FLKL does the mixing is truly original and genuinely compelling. Vocals are a revolving door, with lead duties changing from song to song and backing vocals taking on different shapes and structures throughout the record, from counter-melody to harmonizing to even guttural punctuation. Song styles change just as frequently, going from full-on guitar romp (“Vanity”) to dreamy crooning (“Something”) without missing a beat or sounding out of step. Even the lyrics seem to oscillate from heartfelt declarations (“My Bird of Paradise / I go cross eyed to see you twice.”) to silly observations (“The boys got through a case of Coors / Dust bunnies burrow in my head / The carpet clings to strings and Dorito crumbs”). It’s this constant bouncing back and forth that gives FLKL the space to subtly insert little things here and there in order to make each song sound so much larger and grander in the end.

Just listen to “Cross-Eyed,” one of the true standout tracks from the album. Starting with a simple vocal and drum click, it doesn’t even last thirty seconds before the band throws a sharp turn at us with a gorgeous harmony on a single word. The song then retreats to its basic set-up before the chorus slides in alongside a folksy plucking banjo line. Once the second verse kicks in, a heavy bass line marches in while the drums shift to a pounding rhythm. Chorus number two comes and goes, and then it’s time for a solo, but instead of something plucky and twangy to match that foundational melody, we get this warbly and bendy section that leads to an even more twisty bridge section. Of course, the final chorus steers the song back to familiar ground, but is it actually familiar? We were initially given just a thought of a solitary ballad sung over subtle drums, and now we have this bombastic declaration that matches the song’s heartfelt assertion. As I said, sleight of hand. For every pass from hand to hand, something else snuck in before we ultimately were given this teeming, bristling fistful at the end.

One key element driving this clever work is the band’s deep-rooted punk sensibilities. It may be hard to firmly pin down when you think back to tracks like “Special,” which offers a dreamy descant, or “Tandra And The News,” which has a rustic folk lean. Still, those songs end with an eruption of fury within the backing vocals, something that’s not isolated to these tracks. These background punk eruptions help give Fistful a pulsating energy that adds urgency and intensity to their already intriguing sound. Putting that all aside and just looking at the ideology, this record is still punk through and through. The band walks the line between audacity and irreverence on each song, pushing back strongly on expectations with their lyrics and music. I mean, for God’s sake, we haven’t even mentioned that the band employs an electric banjo as part of their sound. If that’s not a bold repudiation of established standards, I don’t know what is. It’s this punk essence that becomes the essential element of their misdirection and provides the basis for all of their musical sleight of hand that warps and bends each song into something bolder and grander.

On its surface, the band’s initial thought about Fistful being an audible representation of their amalgamous sound still works. Each of the wildly talented band members (Brittany Horkan, Alex Harris, Delilah Ruth Harris, and Mike Ferster) brings a level of diligence and affection to their musical and vocal parts that help the record not just sound earnest but also downright fun from start to finish. But like all great works of art, there’s an undercurrent of talent and inspiration that pushes the record past what even the band intended. It’s here where the musical sleight of hand steps in. We know everything the band has to offer. We can hear all the twists and turns. But when they start to open their hands and all the various styles come tumbling out in a sublime array, it’s just magical. And that’s just what FLKL has created with Fistful. Something dreamy yet punky. Twisty yet sincere. Complex yet graceful. It’s just magic. Pure musical magic that will leave you floored.

Fistful comes out Saturday, March 4th on all streaming platforms. Follow FLKL on social media so you can find all streaming links as well as more news and updates on the band.

FLKL is celebrating the release of Fistful on Sunday, March 4th alongside The Mitras and Catie Lausten at The Camel. Doors open at 7 PM and tickets are $10 in advance ($12 on the day of the show). Click here to purchase tickets and you can check out the show poster below.


Start typing and press Enter to search