August 06, 2004

Fairways "This Is Farewell"

There's always something a little bittersweet about a band's final record. The Fairways' This Is Farewell is a document of a band that never really had the opportunity to shine. Forming in the last part of last century, the Fairways were a part of the gentle Aislers Set-dominated indiepop scene. They released a single, two split releases and an album and they toured several times, but they ran out of steam and quietly disbanded. That's more than a lot of bands do, but in the case of the Fairways, the greatest tragedy is that you probably didn't know them then.
Their loss didn't make much of an impression at the time, but This Is Farewell, a collection that gathers up their B-sides and unreleased demos, proves that their demise was indeed a tragedy. Led by Brent Kenji, The Fairways made gentle, heartfelt pop music that was surprisingly strong, and they never fell into the twee trap that so many of their contemporaries did.

At times, their songs could be soft and gentle; songs like "Starstruck" and "Casino Lights" are lovingly loving and make you want to fall in love. Don't let that fool you,though; on "Don't Call Me Dear" they showed some muscle and a cynical side that make you realize that breaking Kenji's heart is not wise. He sings with a quiet whisper, and at times he sounds like a boy version of Amy Linton. The music is a soft, gentle pop-rock that blends a fine line between Nick Drake, The Association, The Turtles and Everything But The Girl's early acoustic pop. I'm a sucker for fingersnaps and multiple harmonies and vocal taglines, and they've got that in spades; orchestration could have done wonders for these already great songs, too. Credit is given to the person who decided to stagger the tracklisting; the album might not be chronological, but this is a good thing, as the weaker moments of their beginning stages blend in nicely with the maturity and experience of their final recordings.

That you probably never heard the Fairways back then is not a shock, nor is it surprising to find yourself sad after listening to This Is Farewell is not a surprise, either. Kenji's got a new project, The Young Tradition, and bassist Jen Cohen went on to play in Aislers Set and now has a new band, Mystic Chords of Memory. True, the spark of brilliance that the Fairways had may never again be lit, but This is Farewell will always warm your soul.

--Joseph Kyle

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