Review: The Female Fiends bring psychedelic goodness with the Too Shy to Live EP.

coverWhile it may be more infamous for its foundation of the grunge movement and emerging hip-hop artists, Washington State has been a powerhouse for blossoming indie rock artists for some time now. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the world was introduced to Washingtonians Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Minus the Bear, The Microphones, and more recently, Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and the exploding Head and the Heart.

And hopefully continuing our winning streak of indie music mainstays is a Kent-born group simply known as The Female Fiends. I was first attracted to this group by their official biography, which reads, and I quote: “We play N64 Mario Tennis all day and cuddle each other.” It sounds distressingly like my own writing process.

As you may be able to tell from their aforesaid bio and their ironic band name (the group consists entirely of males), The Female Fiends are more of a lighthearted group of individuals, and their playful demeanor really transcends onto their music. The group’s sound is deliriously joyous, to an infectious degree, and it’s really rather difficult to be in a bad mood while listening to these guys’ latest release, the Too Shy to Live EP.

Musically, The Female Fiends take on a neo-psychedelia-infused indie rock style, similar to Foster the People, Foxygen and MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular album. Songs are laden with surreal instrumentals, a consistent lukewarm tempo and an overlying sense of childlike wonderment. One feature that The Female Fiends have and have a lot of is variety and unpredictability as a direct result, which is a great skill to have. You’re never going to get the same song twice on this EP.

The opening track “Dead Friends” begins right out of the gate sounding like what might happen if Animal Collective tried doing their own spin on the Happy Tree Friends theme. From there, the EP goes up like an angel and down like a wounded ox, tackling the stylings of dream pop, experimental electronic and climaxing with a folk rock ballad. Of the album’s six tracks, two in particular stood out as my favourites.

The first one is actually the last song on the EP, “4 A.M.”, the only indie folk song on here, and it’s honestly quite saddening.  Despite the lyrics at times embarrassingly sounding like they’re straight out of Oli Sykes’ repertoire (“Is this all a dream? If so, please wake me up. Life is never fair, but I don’t think you care.”), the song does a damn good job of setting up a sullen atmosphere. While it may not do melancholy quite as powerfully as The National or the Mountain Goats, after five songs of pure tonal delight, it’s nice to get one sadder song to climax it all.

The second song I’d like to mention – my personal favourite on the EP – is the third track, “Dream Aquarium”. While every song on the album is tinged with psychedelia, this song absolutely nails its tone, making clever use of distorted guitars, hushed vocals, and a great use of multilayered binaural space, how the lower-pitched guitar is playing in the left field, while the surreal, psych-poppy guitar is played through the left field. It has a very dreamlike atmosphere to it.

I enjoyed my time with the Too Shy to Live EP. While it may not do a whole lot different from its indie psych-rock peers, it’s still an impressive collection of well-constructed songs that are worth your attention. I could see a couple of these songs playing on alternative music stations alongside Phoenix and the Arctic Monkeys and that one Lorde song they won’t stop playing around these parts.

The EP is available in “Pay What You Want” format on the The Female FiendsBandcamp page, so there’s no reason not to at least check out a song or two. To get a good idea of the EP at large, I’d recommend either “Dream Aquarium” or “Look Up and Puke”. To follow the band behind the awesome, you can like their page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @TheFemaleFiends.

It’s hard to picture where The Female Fiends are going to go from here. Are they going to go the MGMT route and deliberately get more and more bizarre as time progresses, or will they go the Animal Collective route and deliberately get more and more normal over the course of each new album? No one really knows for sure, but I can only imagine good things from here. I’m expecting good things from you, Female Fiends, so don’t fuck things up.

About Jess Casebeer

The only music critic in the Pacific Northwest, Jess Casebeer is the youngest member of the NorthWest Music Scene crew at age 16. Open to most genres out there, he greatly values reviews that are informative, critical and entertaining. He's kind of like an innerspring mattress: firm, yet comfortable in its own right. Follow him on Twitter @JessCasebeer.