Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is the self-titled debut of Aussie garage rockers Phantastic Ferniture, which came out this past Friday, and which we’re carrying in the VMP store right now.
Especially in the ambiguous, oft-repetitive alt-rock sphere, one of the most common complaints among critical listeners is, “all this band’s music sounds the same.” It’s a tricky balancing act to have a cohesive album with a distinct sound, without losing the listener to sonic monotony, but it’s one that Phantastic Ferniture’s mastered on the first try with their self-titled debut.
If you’re not familiar with the Aussie trio, odds are higher that you’re familiar with lead singer Julia Jacklin, whose 2016 debut was released to a small rumbling of audience and critical acclaim. With this project, while in the same laidback rock vein, she’s swapped out slight ballad-heavy alt-country instincts for garage-pop with a touch a reverb-y psychedelic influence. The lyrics on Phantastic Ferniture are, at times, harder to make out than on her previous work, guiding focus more to phonetic sound than actual meaning itself.
As songs and sounds blur into each other, it’s clear the album is refreshingly void of self-seriousness, which makes sense, considering it formed as a bit of a joke. As detailed in an interview with The Young Folks the band, comprised of Jacklin, Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan K. Brennan, was playfully born one tipsy evening at a pizza joint in 2014. But, Hughes said, “Our first rehearsal was really just a joke. I think we all had dinner together and thought we may as well give rehearsing a crack considering we were all together. It was weird – I remember feeling something change as we played. It went so quickly from just mucking around and laughing to realizing we might be on to something good.”
Although the tracks can function as seamless unit, the bands instinct for pointed, catchy “simple things done well” hooks sustain interest throughout and snuff out the too-common curse of homogeneity. “Bad Timing,” for example, is a two chord song Jacklin came up with while sitting at a stop light, but the relatable chorus lamenting the perils of inopportune situations straining a relationship (“ Maybe it's not the time/ Maybe we were never meant to be/ Oh, maybe you should stick around if you truly love me) are real earworms made for knee-jerk mumble singing while idly cruising with your windows down.
The real anthem of the album, and the epitome of the band itself, is appropriately the lead single “Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin.” “Roll in the night/ Fuckin' 'n' rollin'/ Just feels right,” Jacklin pours out on the chorus. The message: relax, breathe, fuck around, do what feels right for a bit, even if it’s just for the duration of this album.
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, the Head of Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.