I Don't Know How to Talk Anymore
Release Date: September 03, 2013
By JENNIFER KELLY
Felsen, a slyly clever power pop outfit from Oakland, has one foot in 1960s and 1970s classic rock, the other in the web-connected, socially-mediated early teens. Songwriter Andrew Griffin is a Berkelee trained session drummer turned Wilco/Matthew Sweet/Teenage Fanclub acolyte. He may be old-school enough to slip a line from “Cinnamon Girl,” a riff from Zep’s “Good Times, Bad Times” into opening salvo “Rock ‘N Roll’s Not Dead,” but he’s no stranger to the blogging, commenting, sharing (and over-sharing) present.
I Don’t Know How to Talk Anymore is Felsen’s fourth LP, a casually polished, beautifully offhand collection of smart, quirky pop songs. Griffin has the trick of turning low-grade disaffection into melodic confections. “I’m at my best in line at the plasma bank,” he confides in the airy, breezy “All You Gotta Do Is Smile,” hitting the knife-edge balance between euphoria and melancholy that distinguishes great pop from not so great. He is backed by a low-key but excellent band. Dylan Brock, who played lead in Luce, gives the songs a hard, rocking edge, revving like a drag car in the interstices of the title track, wailing and winding through “Lorezapam.” Cristian Hernandez and Art McConnell jack up the tunes on joyful, explosive rhythmic foundations. There’s even a string quartet behind the alternate version of “Better Thoughts,” adding lush, lovely density to the song’s plaintive melodic line.
Felsen sounds like any number of mostly older artists working a Nuggets-era brand of pop that’s no longer very popular. Talented eccentrics like Anton Barbeau and Magic Christian come to mind. It’s good stuff, musically, enjoyable, accessible and well-done, but nothing really new. What saves them from dad-ism is the right now quality of the lyrics, which meshes 1960s rain-on-windows pop melancholy with 2010s social-media anxieties. Why can’t Felsen talk anymore? Griffin explains,“I’m afraid of conversation. I’ll text you and try to explain.” Never mind that. Put it in a song. We’ll be listening.
DOWNLOAD: “Rock ‘n Roll’s Not Dead” “Better Thoughts”