American rock duo LowRay’s debut album Friends and the Fakers presents us with a wonderful fusion of 60’s pop melodies and streamlined alternative rock that recalls elements of the Paisley Underground. Broken into ten fiercely original tracks that each help us to understand a different layer in the band’s richly textured sound, Friends and the Fakers is a record that doesn’t shy away from experimentation but remains committed to a particular identity from start to finish. These songs are very curt and to the point structurally, often imagistic and lyrically evocative, and above all else meticulously crafted. LowRay might be a new face in indie rock, but they’ve got the attitude and execution of seasoned pros.
Guitarist Daniel Fowlds’ play in the bulk of this album is steeped in psychedelia, but it never trots into overindulgent territory. The title track and the patient “Waiting for You” are cerebral by nature and blissfully airy, and they act as a worthy counterbalance to the addictively dark grooves in “Palisade” or the melancholy in the slow ballad “I’m Sorry.” Fowlds touches on a lot of musical ground here and experiments heavily with old school R&B harmonies that really add a unique color to the songs, particularly in jazzier numbers like the gorgeous “Let Me Be.”
The other half of LowRay, drummer James Irving, doesn’t disappoint listeners with his play or allow his skilled partner to overshadow the slender but boisterous beats. The countrified Americana that we find in “Lonely Tuesday Night” would probably sound entirely different were it not for the bittersweet pitter-patter of Irving’s drumming, which tugs at our heartstrings just as hard as Fowlds’ lyrics do. The looser “There’s a Place” shows off his more relaxed side, while “Western Song” showcases Irving’s terrific knack for staying on pace in even the most churning of compositions.
Some of the songs on Friends and the Fakers feel like they’re actually excerpts from what could be amazing live performances that wouldn’t restrict LowRay from really taking these untamable grooves out for a spin. “Sooner or Later” is a Heartland stomp-rocker that I can imagine would light up a crowded roadside bar or a packed theatre just the same, and “8 Track Tapes,” which is already as eccentric as they come, could possibly become the lynchpin of a sublime extended jam. Their compositional bones are strong and equally full of pop hooks and stylish instrumental parts, which indicates to me that LowRay has tremendous potential as a touring act.
If this first record is representative of what’s to come out of LowRay’s camp in the future, Irving and Fowlds are going to be in for quite a ride as they embark on the next few years of their career. Friends and the Fakers is a very accessible, fun record that I found just as enjoyable to listen to as a collective piece as I did cherry picking through its tracks casually on a rainy afternoon. Lyrically these songs are a combination of contemplative dialogues, witty anecdotes and brooding confessionals, with the music providing an exquisite soundtrack to accompany them. Friends and the Fakers is an engaging listen for sure, but it’s also a very easy record to pick up and get into without ever having heard LowRay perform before.