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Album Review: Fink – Hard Believer

Artist: Fink
Album: Hard Believer
Tracks: 10
Release Date: 14th July 2014
Label: R’COUP’D

Fin Greenall, aka Fink should be illegal due to his mood-altering and addictive properties. I first got hooked on Fink because of his 2009 album Sort of Revolution. I was at a festival mid-last year and in between acts, a hauntingly dark and mesmerizing, yet soothing piece echoes out through the public address system. In real 21st Century style I Googled the lyrics. It turned out that the song was called Move On Me, and that first listen lead to weeks of me wearing down the repeat button.

On Bastille Day this year, Fink released his latest record Hard Believer, recorded in a live session format. In many ways Fink’s move to Hard Believer from Sort of Revolution or Perfect Darkness is comparable to Bob Dylan’s move from acoustic folk songs to electric. As I’ve previously said, I’ve been used to tracks such as Move On Me, and Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us, or If I Had a Million which are all predominantly acoustic songs, soulful and percussive, hearing some of the songs I’m about to talk about, the latest record couldn’t be any more removed.

However, things aren’t as drastic as I perhaps first made them seen. As you can see from the video above produced by MOWNO, Fink has still retained a lot of the style and grace which we can associate with the man. Songs from Hard Believer such as Shakespeare, Two Days Later and Pilgrim are typical songs of the artist, dark and eerie, yet with a soothing sense of instrumentalism and immersion. They are reasonably similar to the songs on Some Sort of Revolution, except that with this album, Fink has chosen to work with more of a full-band sound. In his previous albums, he’s had musicians provide tracks for pianos, drums and synths, but yet it still retained a predominantly acoustic feel, whereas Hard Believer transforms the approach into a more intense stereo experience.

Shakespeare is one of the most fine examples of this transition. The first third of the track begins acoustically, pulsating and evocative, which is then met by Fink’s husky and dulcet voice, musing over Shakespeare and the idea of what love is, and how well old Bill truly portrayed love in Romeo and Juliet, an unusual topic, but still not unexpected from the artist. The chorus is also quiet, which leads the reader into a false sense of security, but then builds slowly and curiously and becomes gradually more and more textured with drums growing in aggression, which levels off back into the calm acoustic approach.

The first time I heard this, it was clear that Fink was flirting with a more layered sound, but almost convinced me that he wasn’t quite ready to take that particular leap of faith, and had opted to return to the comfort zone. When the second chorus came around the bend, the tempo and timbre rose again, building and leading me to anticipate a climactic Mumford and Sons style conclusion. This comes in the last quarter of the song, reaching the zenith of the wall of sound Fink has created, which when listened through headphones can almost be disorienting, different sounds and textures coming from all sides. It’s not quite a fully electric song, and still retains a lot of what Fink resembles, but in all, still shows the artist’s ability to branch out into new styles and show that he isn’t afraid to attempt newer and fresher approaches.

Another song which corroborates this change is the following track Truth Begins. The song begins slow, the guitar dark and simple as though it were written by Ben Howard. It takes a very minimalist approach, Fink’s echoed voice resonating through the speakers, low and mournful. In the second minute of the song, a long and blues-like drum beat creeps in and fleshes the song out, giving it backbone to Fink’s muscular vocal whines and moans. Throughout the third and fourth minute, the song is at its fairy-tale pinnacle, cymbals and chiming sounds whistle through the song, creating a very mesmerizing and yet gentle engulfing effect. Fink’s songs have always been intense and emotive but Truth Begins takes this to another level, not only appealing to the inner-poet of the listener but also giving them no choice but to become fully involved in the track.

What’s clear to see is that Fink has served up some fresh produce for the eager agrarian which enables him to stay relevant and interesting to new listeners, and yet not alienate the old ‘listenership’. However, for those of you who want to hear something that they’ll recognise from the old Fink, songs such as  Two Days Later which opens up moodily, low notes resonating, Fink’s deep and solemn voice in harmony with a multi-tracked version of himself, with dramatic use of cymbals, the tension in the song builds to an uneasy level, reminiscent of a dark and stormy night, but when the chorus begins, his voice grows more soulful and harmonic. Of all the songs on the album, it’s one of the most catchy and easy to sing along with.

Overall, Fink’s latest album is one fully worth the time spent investing in it. There are plenty of new elements for the old listeners, lots of uses of the wall of sound with a full-band format, which offers an immersive listening experience. It’s an album I usually fall asleep to for the way that it stills me and enables me to relax. You are given options of enjoying the record as a purely musical piece without paying attention to anything more, or you can choose to appreciate the lyrical content of the record. Unfortunately, there are notes of the record that blend into one another, but this can prove to be a seamless experience or a repetitive one.

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