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Brash tunes from the seat of someone else’s car

Facing New York's debut CD is a labor of love that moves from prog to pop
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

No job, no money and a tour across country in a beat-up van, Facing New York’s band resume reads like the lyric sheet for a sappy country song. 

After a year and a half working odd jobs, living on car seats and friend’s couches, and sloughing off sleep to spend time in the studio, Facing New York unveils its first full-length, self-titled release. Produced in large part by the band — a labor-of-love project months in the making — “Facing New York” is an exploration into the minds of five like-minded dreamers.

Harboring 10 solid tracks, “Facing New York” tackles familiar 20-something themes of life and love for today’s disenchanted youth. Driven by frontman Eric Frederick, Facing New York tests the waters of the genre with its collection of pop-driven rock tunes, which successfully draw on the talents of  Matt Fazzi, Brandon Canchola, Omar Cuellar and Rene Carranza to round out a team of prodigious songwriters.

On the boys’ introductory track, “We Are,” Frederick and Fazzi trade off vocal riffs: “We are the young men, we are the desperation / We are the broken coin, the begging boys at your door.” The tune, which wraps together several distinctly separate arrangements into one sprawling epic, is the perfect album opener, igniting a string of songs that move the listener seamlessly through the disc’s 50 minutes. So well conceived is this rotation of tunes that is often difficult to distinguish when one song ends and another begins, giving the album the dusty feel of a comfortable, old vinyl record.

On “Javelina” Facing New York unleashes its secret weapon: a genuine Fender Rhodes piano. With Carranza at the piano’s helm, the sweet, sticky electric tones pulse nicely, adding a vintage glow to each track. Warm and rich, Carranza’s carefully timed blips and bleeps ebb and flow nicely from track to track, injecting the disc with its moony ambiance. On “Full Turn” Carranza struggles to tame the 200-pound piano, tinkling the keys wildly as Cuellar knocks out beats.

The disc’s best track, “Full Turn” moves swiftly from pop to prog, carefully treading the boundary between complicated improvisational wandering and simplistic three-chord choruses. It’s not difficult to see how past comparisons have placed them on line with the likes of the Mars Volta and Dismemberment Plan, and it’s Facing New York’s fondness for the obscure that will keep this disc spinning on repeat. But while these boys do have a penchant for musical exploration, they never cross the line (no 20 minute songs here). In fact, tracks like “Cutting My Hair” and “Flagstaff” fall nicely in the other direction, with enough catch to snag a place on a major radio station slot.

The darker second half is introduced with the avant-jazz tinted “Fly on the Walls” and the darkly delicious “Styrofoam Walls,” two seedy tracks that explore dingier side of life. Live, these guys conduct energy like lightening rods, banging heads, stamping feet and writhing on the floor, entranced by their own music making. It’s a wonder, though, that amid all the jumping and jerking that Facing New York can pull off such complicated songs on stage. Backed heavily by Five One, Inc. records, the group, which has already spent time warming up crowds for Cursive and Taking Back Sunday, hit the nationwide gauntlet of Warped Tour 2004 dates before heading out on tour with Desa and Somerset this summer to bewilder indie kids up and down the West Coast.

Infested with just the right dose of conceptualization, “Facing New York” is an ethereal exploration of the human spirit. And while on this disc there are few happy endings or sliver linings, Facing New York promises that we’ll all get by, somehow.

To learn more about Facing New York, visit: http://www.facingnewyork.com/.