Fleece’s ‘Stunning and Atrocious’ gets personal

‘Stunning and Atrocious’ is indie band Fleece’s third album and features the band’s haunting sounds and complex instrumentation. Fleece will be performing live in Atlanta on Oct. 4. // Photo courtesy of Fleece

Our Take: 4 Stars

Everyone who went through an Alt-J phase or even was aware of the alternative music scene in the mid 2010’s knows the YouTube video “how to write an Alt-J song.” This improvised parody formed when two guys were playing around with a broken keyboard’s loop feature in 2015. That video now has 12 million views, and those two guys now make up one half of the LGBTQ indie quartet, Fleece.

The humor and energy on display in this lighthearted parody translate well into Fleece’s music, and the band has earned a reputation for bombastic jazzy rock songs and energetic performances. In their earlier albums, they earned comparisons to a plethora of other bands like Radiohead, Tame Impala, the Pixies, and, of course, Alt-J. Plus, they have continued their goofy antics with videos like “my cat watches me dance” appearing on their YouTube channel.

Fleece released their long-awaited third album on Aug. 20. In this album, “Stunning and Atrocious,” the group draws on a slightly different tone than previous albums, taking on more fragile subject matters including the “vulnerability from road life, stage highs, loneliness, upheaval, and every eerily true cliché cited by bands throughout the years.” Even though they drew on their unique experience of being in a band as inspiration, the emotions that they pull on make these songs universally relevant and surprisingly cathartic. The band said they wanted the album to feel like an “auditory hug.”

The emotional expressions in “Stunning and Atrocious” are specific. One song “Bodies Lie” captures the experience and anger of being continually underestimated. Simple lyrics like “And if I chose to, I could burn you” capture a frustrating choice many must make when their talents and ability go unnoticed. At times, this song strays musically from the more serene tones of the album, but the departure in tone is perfectly fitted for the emotion expressed. For a more calming vibe, listen to the first song in the album, “All My Money.”

In “Stunning and Atrocious,” the group stays true to the reputation of musical complexity they have earned in their careers. The instrumentation carefully conveys the emotions in their songs with lyricism that supports rather than masks the role that the instrumentation plays.

With Fleece’s at times haunting tones and vocals, certain songs in this album are reminiscent of Mother Mother’s “O My Heart,” but this comparison falls short as the production of “Stunning and Atrocious” production has an ethereal, sensitive quality to it that is not often found in the indie folk genre. Fleece’s fans continue to celebrate the band and their bending and exploration of genre norms.

When asked what they looked forward to most about touring again, Fleece said, “Waffle House. Being idiots in every state. Getting abs. Eating healthy. Also, shows are sick to play. Lol.”

Fleece is about to begin a North American tour with Jukebox the Ghost that will last from September to November. The band will be performing in Atlanta at Terminal West on Saturday Oct 4. Tickets are $22.