Maybe it’s all the banjo that gives the amiable sounds of this New York band’s debut an almost naïve charm. There are bright chords and fresh-faced sounds aplenty, but make no mistake, Freelance Whales’ indie-pop sounds are distinct and fully realized as their debut album shows depth, range and inventiveness. Belying their urban origins, the band’s music evokes the pastoral spaciousness of rural isolation. However, this is no backcountry outpost lost in time, but a high-tech organic operation producing rich sounds by cross-pollinating synthpop’s energetic melodics with folk-driven instrumentation. The results have a charismatic earnestness that avoids being cloying, and Weathervanes plays out with a wondrous sense of open-eyed adventure and finely crafted compositions.
Songs about ghosts and dreams come together with tracks about innocent love (sometimes aimed at the aforementioned ghosts) and the band does a good job at infusing the music with the ethereal atmosphere expressed in their lyrics. Building from an electronic hum and a low clanking rattle that gives way to the banjo lead, “Generator ^ First Floor” opens the disc and introduces the positive but slightly haunted moods that follow. Toward the end of the disc “Generator ^ Second Floor” matches this mood with chorused vocals and a glockenspiel in the front. The true heart of the album comes out in “Hannah” where bouncing synths and sing-song verses break away for the glorious refrain that plays with the pacing and the mood of the song, leaving listeners caught in soft swirl of sound and pace. “Starring” and “Kilojoules” pick up the tempo and deliver a charge to the disc before “Broken Horse” strips everything they’ve done to its most bare and “Ghosting” tenderly begins a reassembly mission. By the time things conclude with mannerly closer “The Great Estates” it’s been made perfectly clear that this is a band ready and able to create visions with enveloping scope and delightful articulation.