Welcome to another Bucketlist Bipolar Review, where Henri Brillion and I, Shawn Thicke, will offer our separate viewpoints of one album. This week’s edition features Familiars’s debut album All In Good Time; an album that might inspire you to grow an extremely long beard, hit the open road and get completely hammered at the most rundown watering hole you can find!
Henri, I will admit I did not expect this album to sound like it did. I judged it by its cover. Even the title seemed like a misdirection. When I clicked that play button, I intended to sit back and imagine myself resting my head on a barrel of hay or something. Instead of good-time folk-pop, I was smacked in the face by “Homestead’s” slow, gloomy down-tuned guitars that suggest something far more sinister. Sure, the lyrics are still pretty folky (“Tilled the earth and planted seed”) and there is an audible acoustic guitar, but the barrage of hard rock riffs and growly back-up vocals suggest otherwise. I love Familiars’s style. There are not many occasions where you’ll hear chugging fuzz guitars, slide guitar AND banjos in the same song and have it not sound gimmicky or tacked on.
However, I can’t say I loved All In Good Time, and a big reason comes down to the vocal melodies. Don’t get me wrong, Kevin Vansteenkiste and Jared MacIntyre are solid singers with distinct voices. They remind me of July Talk in that one is smooth and soulful, and one is gruff and sounds like they are singing with whiskey AND a cigarette in their mouth. That contrast works for me and highlights their “outlaw country meets hard rock” vibe. The problem is I can’t remember anything they are singing. The melodies are only kind of there. I won’t be singing them with the rest of the barflies at the saloon if you catch my drift. This is fine most of the time as the riffs carry a lot of the songwriting, but on stuff like “The Common Loon” and “The Avro Arrow,” it isn’t enough. On these two songs, the vocals seem almost unnecessary.
I highly recommend the opener “Homestead” and closer “Bonanza” though! To me, these two epics capture what I believe Familiars is going for. Their music is where long-haired metalheads and cowboy boot-wearing country fans can share a pint. The chorus boasts one of the HEAVIEST riffs on the album and then makes way for a jaunty banjo instrumental. It’s breathtaking. So, for me, Henri, All In Good Time doesn’t quite reach greatness, but it’s well worth listening to for genre-bending moments like that. Oh, and the riffs! You CANNOT forget the riffs. What are your thoughts?
Shawn, I dig your insight. We have similar levels of appreciation for this album, but for musically different reasons. Although the country influences on All in Good Time are undeniable, I mostly heard a perfect blend of the stoner, psychedelic and doom subgenres of rock and metal. The country/folk feel is there, but it’s buried under the weight.
Don’t underestimate Familiars or judge them by their album cover; this record is H E A V Y !!!!! I’m talking about the slow, grinding, fuzztastic WEIGHT on your eardrums kind of heavy… The kind of heavy that numbs the senses, overpowers all emotional subtlety and pisses off your neighbours! For comparison, turn to Montreal’s own Ravenblack or Lake Saint-John Power & Paper Cie. Unlike most stoner rock bands, Familiars have a calm, hypnotic vibe that contrasts beautifully with the sheer weight of everything else.
Like Shawn, I think opening track “Homestead” is a great example of this vibe. I also loved “Barn Burning,” with its relentless bass guitar chugging. Like I said, these guys know how to apply the weight evenly, and press down hard. This album is a pressure cooker of sludgy, fuzzy stoner rock.
Unless you’re not a fan of heavy music, there’s nothing to dislike here. I’m only docking points because this album is not especially groundbreaking. It’s just good old heavy rock music, expertly played and recorded. Unlike Shawn, I never thought the melodies were “just kind of there.” Instead, I thought they lent themselves to the hypnotic quality of Familiars’ music.
Written by Shawn Thicke & Henri Brillon
*Edited by Dominic Abate