Before diving into the dreamy details of this debut full-length from Quebec City folk-indie outfit Harfang, I’d like to thank Bucketlist for assigning me a record that precludes me from plumbing the abyssal depths of Thesaurus.com to find additional synonyms for “brutal” and “crushing.” So while Laugh Away the Sun may be a departure from my extreme music wheelhouse, it is a delightfully welcome one.
While my best stab at categorizing Harfang’s sound would be indie rock injected with equally healthy doses of post-rock and dream-pop, Laugh Away the Sun succeeds at holding attention through a deft combination of creative complexity and pop sensibility. The eerie, bending synth and sustained guitar chords of album opener “Kneel” set a somber tone, amplified by lead singer and guitarist Samuel Wagner’s melancholy croon. Baritone vocal accents at the end of lyrical phrases further add to the song’s emotional weight before Mathieu Rompré’s simple, flanged-out drum track breaks the tension.
While a wistful, heartsick vibe certainly permeates much of Laugh Away the Sun, Harfang are by no means an emotional one-trick pony. “Stockholm” is pure indie pop in the best sense; catchy, mellifluous, and uplifting despite lyrics that hint at the scars of a damaged relationship. It is not difficult to imagine this as the backing track for a big budget car commercial.
Speaking of big budgets, the production quality of Laugh Away the Sun sounds expensively good. The depth and quality of sound in songs like “Pleasure” and “Lighthouse” allow all of the instrumentation to stand out, while still creating a record that feels as if it envelops you while you listen. The near seamless interplay between organic and electronic instrumentation allows the songs of Laugh to have a wide variety of emotional flavours while remaining true to the album’s central musical themes.
My only critique here is that at times the lead vocals feel far too forward in the mix. Really neat ideas like the intricate guitar riff midway through “Lighthouse” and the abrupt drum shuffle of “Fly Away”, both clever, adroit bits of songcraft that evoke both Explosions In The Sky and Do Make Say Think, get overpowered by the singing.
So there you have it. Jesse likes a pretty-sounding record. The Apocalypse must be nigh.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson