Fickle Friends - You Are Someone Else

by Brett Dickinson

It’s been a long wait for a Fickle Friends album. The five-piece from Brighton formed in 2013, and with singles dating back to 2014, it’s been a long wait for the fans who have been with them from the beginning (sadly I cannot count myself in that number). Having shared stages with bands such as the Killers, Halsey and HAIM, they’ve used the time well, seen a lot, played a lot and won a lot of fans already as well as gaining a vast array of musical influences. The wait for the most part seems worth it - the band is remarkably sure of its sound for a first album, and it sounds very polished with smooth hooks, bright synths and a well-crafted combination of catchiness and meaning.

The album’s start is spot on. The opening single Wake Me Up starts the album strongly providing it with a bright, bouncy and breezy tone to draw you in. The second and third songs Glue and Swim are arguably their best known songs, both having gained attention as singles. The songs are very synth heavy, but it is a sound that works for them, complementing the confident voice of lead singer Natassja Shiner. Swim in particular builds on the summery, bouncy feel of Wake Me Up. However song four, Bite, darkens the tone just with the addition of a very noticeable beat pulsing beneath the synths, suiting the depiction of a toxic relationship well. It retains some of the bounce, however, with an element of 80s dance music to it, different to the synth-pop of the first three songs.

The next songs Lovesick and Say No More are more guitar driven than the ones before, possibly with more similarities to the alt-pop, indie side of their influences. Yet it is a style they can carry off (and one that suits my musical preferences). Sadly Heartbroken, the next song, fails to straddle the line between catchy and hook-laden, with the high-pitched synth and relaxed vocals crossing the line into cheesy and slightly irritating. However the fact this is song 8 before they get the balance wrong is almost a compliment, yet the drop-off from Say No More to Heartbroken does blemish this section of the album for me.

The two minutes of In My Head serves almost as an interlude in the album, with a much slower, entrancing sound, allowing a focus on Shiner’s voice and the lyrics (both of which could be far too easily overlooked by a casual listen). It’s a really intriguing, personal piece and is going to divide opinion amongst their fans as it is such a different sound. Personally, I think it serves a beautiful, haunting interlude and would really like them to explore this side of their sound some more at some point.

The second part of the album continues to establish Fickle Friends’ credentials and synth-pop sound, with songs such as Hello Hello and She which would be worthy of special mention on a lesser album but are just another song on this one. Rotation struggles initially as the mood change from In My Head is quite severe, but it recovers enough to be a solid, if unexceptional track. Paris is a slower, yet still danceable number for the first half allowing attention to focus on the emotive lyrics - “by the time you change your mind I might have left” - before a drop mid-song which picks up the tempo and showcases the lower ranges of Shiner’s voice. Crossing continents, Brooklyn from which the album title You are Someone Else comes is very similar to Swim, synth heavy, catchy hooks, every aspect ready-made for a festival. Midnight is a song I can’t quite decide on: I think I quite like it, it’s a bit darker, a bit more haunting (“trouble always follows me”) yet its just a bit different to the rest of the album and I’m not quite sure why.

The album overall is a very strong showing as a whole, rather than just some good singles combined with filler (which I find that this type of album can tend towards) and, with the sad exception of Heartbroken, there is not a bad song on the album. However, it would also probably be true that none of the songs are comparatively outstanding (it has no Mr. Brightside-type instantly memorable, album-defining song). Yet in spite of that minor failing it is a very strong, pop album especially for a debut album: the (incredibly long) time to release a first album seems to have paid off.