You’ll notice a feline theme that runs though the debut album by Fine Times. It’s an apt metaphor for band that moves as gracefully as this one, but it wasn’t always this way.
When vocalist Matthew Moldowan and bassist Jeffrey Josiah Powell let the name expire on their previous act, they walked away from an outfit that never got past the grand planning stage, despite a great record and the approval of critics.
When the two regrouped in 2010, the whole idea was to be nimble as possible—and voila, by 2011, they were in the Warehouse studio working on the bed tracks for their debut album on Light Organ Records.
“We scrambled. It really happened all of sudden,” says Moldowan, explaining that producer Howard Redekopp opened a small window, and they jumped in. If it seemed a little reckless, the gamble paid off. He put his personal armory of vintage synths at their disposal, and Moldowan and Powell responded with the kind of inspired, swaggeringly confident pop that Redekopp feasts on. It was a perfect fit.
Trying to account for his own inability to avoid a deadly hook or three, Moldowan offers that “I have a short attention span so if a record doesn’t catch me in the first listen or two, I probably won’t put it back on the record player.” But he’s being a little disingenuous.
You don’t just conjure a heart-melting bridge like the one in “High Brow Low Times” out of a short attention span, and you don’t lay down a grand procession like “Lions”, or take a graceful left turn into afrobeat on “Super Controller” without precision feel for your craft.
And you don’t generally get to collaborate with Howard Redekopp, who is something of a legend round these parts thanks to his work with the New Pornographers, Mother, Mother and Tegan & Sara, among others.
Redekopp completes the Fine Times picture with a sound that’s becoming his signature; a crisp but extra-wide miracle that brings a ringing clarity, brightness and warmth to the record, even when a cloud of white noise engulfs the last minute of the slinky “High Brow Low Times”.
“There are sleigh bells and chimes and 18 tracks of guitars all doing different things, and you can’t really hear specific things, but you know what’s happening is musical…” says Moldowan about the track, although there’s nothing on this luscious, stately pop record that’s any less ear-bending.
From the snakey Elvis Costello power pop of “Television Tel Aviv” to “Hey Judas”, which sounds like Suede gone stadium sized, it’s pretty much an album of 10 singles, all hits. If there’s a lineage of sophisticated, lovingly crafted pop that stretches from Phil Spector, through to Roxy Music, Phoenix, and MGMT, then Fine Times is sitting somewhere near the end of it. Only cat-shaped.