Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chet Faker – Built on Glass (2014)

Australian musician Nicholas James Murphy, famously known as Chet Faker, released his debut album in April 2014. He has said that the inspiration for his stage name (and partly for his music) came from one of his idols, Chet Baker, the talented jazz artist. Yet, Murphy thought that he does not deserve to use that name himself, thus he changed Baker’s surname to Faker, as he felt that in a way this is who he is. On Built on Glass, Faker definitely does not fake the passion with which he is contributing to every song. Though if he is, then… well, then he must be a really good ‘faker’.

The opening song of the album is "Release Your Problems", which perfectly fits this place as it sounds like an introduction to something big that is coming up. The song starts off with a slow and mellow piano tune, the high notes of the intro create an especially relaxed and peaceful environment. To me it sounds like a melody that could stand on its own as well, without lyrics and vocal part, and still be a really enjoyable song. There is a bit of a change of melody and a small break some seconds before Faker starts singing, it feels like the music makes a way for him to come and show off his strong yet smooth voice as the first few seconds of his singing there is no background music. The overall tune stays the same but the song evolves into something a bit more upbeat as a rather humble background beat is added to the piano tune. Faker’s voice engages perfectly with the song and you can sense his passion the most in the chorus. The song ends again with the tune of the piano and the beat, supported by quiet humming, which again brings us back to this relaxed atmosphere created in the beginning of the song.

The first song created a perfect path for the next song to make an entrance. “Talk is Cheap” is a bit more upbeat compared to the first song. It starts off with a rather long intro (a few seconds over one minute), yet as Faker is an electro-soul artist, it makes sense that he wants to show off his skills in that field as well, especially since not everyone will notice what is going on in the background as soon as he starts singing. His voice sounds a bit lazy and this gives a sort of cool, chill vibe to the song. In this song Faker’s jazzy soul voice is more noticeable. One of the key elements of the song is the use of a saxophone. One would probably think that saxophone is not the most suitable or best choice for an electronica track, yet as Faker engages soul with electro, the use of saxophone seems to be fair choice, creating a sweet-sounding combination.

The next song, “No Advice (Airport version)”, is again a sort of a move in another direction. It is a short piece, in which Faker has a minor part as he only sings six lines that can be heard clearly. His vocals are backed by a quiet humming sound, which supports the overall mysterious vibe the song has. “No Advice” sounds to me like a short meditative song, which has to be listened more than once to get the right feeling out of it.

Next song is “Melt”, which already from the start seems to have more beat to it. Here, the laziness in his voice comes out even more clearly, yet while this might not work in other genres or in the case of other artists, it definitely works in favour of Chet Faker, as this for me is a characteristic feature of his. One small feature that gives a certain touch to the song, is in the chorus during the lines Melt my happiness, some kind of fucked up mess and Hell, my loneliness will take no part in this, the way how he emphasizes the words ‘mess’ and ‘this’ with higher notes, that certainly get your attention back to the song if you have got lost inside. This is the only song on the album where he has a featuring artist, in this case Kilo Kish, an American artist. Faker said in an interview for Clash, that “I felt like ‘Melt’ was a good song,” he says, “but it was boring with just me on it. Kilo’s stuff is dope and I’d been listening to heaps of it. I got in touch and asked if she wanted to be on the track. She put down a verse and did her thing, which was totally dope. The rest is history. I haven’t even met her yet.” Although, I would not be so blunt here, stating that it would have been boring without Kish, it sure does put a nice extra touch to the song. Moreover, this is a great (yet for me even a bit weird) example, how today’s technology gives opportunities to do collaborations without ever even having to see your song partner.

The following song on the album, “Gold”, is probably the most well-known song of Chet Faker. In addition to his 2011 cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”, this is probably the song through which people discover and have discovered Faker and his addicting music. “Gold” is another one of those upbeat songs of the album. The song has a certain pop song touch to it, so at first it might seem like something that is totally out of the ordinary for Faker, yet I feel that it still is Chet Faker in all its glory. In the chorus of “Gold” he demonstrates his higher pitch as well, in contrast to his chill lazy sound. “Gold” was nominated for the MTV Music Video Awards for the choreography of the famous choreographer Ryan Heffington.

“To Me” follows the style of the previous song, yet adds a something certain to it, so again Faker has created a piece that sounds nothing like any of the previous songs. Actually, for me all the songs on the album sound different, although Faker can be felt in all of them. “To Me” is again a bit calmer and more relaxed song but the song itself still sounds intense and passionate, although, I feel that he could have engaged more with this song. Here the laziness of his voice is not really present and in a sense this is the feature that could have worked especially well for this song, adding to the overall mood of the song.

The album is in two parts. In between the two parts (the 18 seconds that carry the name “/”) an unknown voice says: “This is the other side of the record. Now relax still more and drift a little deeper as you listen.” And this sounds like a good suggestion for the following song “Blush”, which feels more like an electronica song than the previous ones, in which the soulful part was mostly on the foreground. The song is fascinating due to the many layers it has, it just keeps surprising.

The previous song already gave a hint that this half of the album is going to be different from the first one. “1998” also gives a hint, that Faker is not called electro-soul artist for no reason, he really can mix sounds together and create futuristic, yet contemporary pieces. In “1998”, the vocals seem to be the supporting feature as there is so much more going on, which draws more attention.

The longest song on the album is “Cigarettes and Loneliness”, which in the beginning gives a feeling, that this might be “1998” all over again, yet as soon as Faker starts singing, it is clear that he has done it again, this song does not sound anything like we have heard so far as well. Through the song the vocals are supported by four repeating notes with few exceptional modulations, at one part a change occurs though, yet it soon returns to the main pattern, and in the end it combines the two patterns as a cohesive whole.

“Lesson in Patience” starts off as something, that at the same time sounds like something annoying, yet at the same time it engages you and does not leave you bored or disturbed. Again, there is so much going on, that it is impossible to bring out the main feature. Yet, the curious part here, is that Faker does not sing a line in this song. He only hums and shows off his vocal range. I believe that the song works on the album, but I am not sure whether listening to the song separately would create the feeling it does while listening to the album as a whole. Yet, on the album it works as a transition between the previous song and last one, guides the album towards wrapping up.

The last song of Built on Glass is “Dead Body”. This in a way feels like a return to the first half of the album with the mellow tune and slow and soft vibe. It really does give the album a nice final touch and leaves you wanting for more soul, more jazz-like features, more electronical beats and chords, more Chet Faker and more.. More albums, perhaps!?

Anne Rahusaar

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