Highlighting the “rock” half of their “symphonic rock” sound on this latest record, Mother Falcon have released their tightest and perhaps most accessible album to date in You Knew. With the release of this second full-length and upcoming shows in New York and L.A. this summer, the group is poised to become yet another band that I was into “before they were cool.” For those who don’t know, Mother Falcon are a 15-piece (or more) mini rock symphony orchestra. Featuring a complement of strings, horns, percussion, guitars, accordion, and piano, Mother Falcon make being a band nerd as sexy as being a rock star.
While having always featured a well-developed rock sensibility, previous releases by Mother Falcon still bore a sheen of chamber pop and orchestra pit academia in a way that (while beautiful) seemed a little more esoteric than most people prefer their rock music to be. On You Knew the focus seems to have shifted ever so slightly, but in a noticeable way that is sure to grab the ears of a much broader audience. Perhaps most telling of this change is the song “Marigold,” originally recorded for their 2010 EP Still Life. The version on You Knew has a bite and insistence that sets it apart from its twin and gives it new life as a single-worthy rocker.
For every percussive rocker like “Marigold” and album opener “Pink Stallion,” there are still a number of quieter, almost progressive moments on You Knew. Coming about half way through the album, the song “My Majesty” borrows an arrangement or two from some of Radiohead’s gloomier moments, while the banjo and piano backed “Blue and Gold,” from whose lyrics the album takes its title, is a slow and ominous track that builds to a beautiful crescendo. There is one mostly instrumental track to be found on the album in the form of “Marfa,” perhaps the one song that sounds most reminiscent of their 2011 LP Alhambra. The recently released (and reviewed) single “Dirty Summer” makes an appearance as well.
You Knew is nothing if not an album with many influences. As hinted at earlier, the band’s time learning to cover Radiohead’s OK Computer for a performance last year seems to have rubbed off on them on more tracks than one, but hints of The Decemberists are prevalent as well in moments such as the late album track “When It Was Good.” Throughout it all however Mother Falcon retain a definite identity, which must be no small feat for a group with 15+ active members.
What comes through most of all, especially for those fans of the band’s previous work is a definite growth not just in sound, but in song structure, arrangement, and production that make You Knew incredibly tight, with few (if any) visible chinks in its armor. With artists like Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett (formerly Final Fantasy) having proved the critical viability of string-based if not entirely symphonic rock in recent years, Mother Falcon would seem to be in an excellent position with an album that is as approachable as it is explorable. Having fallen in love with this band last year, You Knew was easily one of my more anticipated releases this year and Mother Falcon have delivered yet another winner.
– Brian Audette