I can’t help thinking Flash Fiction’s debut album, The Murmurs Of Morning, might be released at the wrong time of the year. As I write this review, with the central heating on full and as the rain spits incessantly outside, a world in which I could be “blasting the radio / with the windows down” seems all too far away. This album is an intensely summery affair, and whilst it might not soundtrack my Winter bus journeys back home, I’ll be sure to return to it in the dog days post-Summer exams.
As a unified work, The Murmurs Of Morning is a collection of sparsely instrumented and ultimately well-written indie-folk tracks. The stripped-back arrangements provide a welcome foil to the fashionable bombast of contemporary pop-folk, as pioneered by Mumford & Sons, and throughout I was impressed with how well the tracks functioned. The overlapping vocals of Good Morning Appalachia, reminiscent of Slow Club, were seamless, and I appreciated the polyphonic harmonic splits in the chorus. Meanwhile, the introduction of a lone violin in the middle of the album was extremely effective, adding a series of counter-melodies that didn’t obscure the vocals. The saxophone of The Promised Land was a welcome introduction, however I felt this variation wasn’t quite as effective as the strings. Overall in a folk-landscape dominated by an unwelcome emphasis on volume, Flash Fiction’s arrangements are rather refreshing.
Another pro of the sparse instrumentation is the clarity of the lyrics, and for the duration I found the words the most interesting facet of the tracks. Throughout, the listener is presented with images of American Geography and travel, perhaps hearkening to the trans-Atlantic nature of the band. Perhaps most obviously signposted by The Promised Land, the content reminded me a lot of Bruce Springsteen, with the “lights of the Interstate / [that] have me in a lonely trance” referenced in wistful track, The Same Mistakes, hearkening back to the escapism of Springsteen’s Born to Run. Overall, whilst the band itself may straddle the Atlantic, Flash Fiction is an intensely American experience, and one that is genuinely interesting to listen to. In this respect, vocalists Jon Shadel and Josie Paris must be praised for flawless delivery throughout.
Overall, The Murmurs Of Morning is worth your attention, as it proves to be a solid and well-written debut. On the back of listening to this album, I’m planning to return to it in the warm weather, whilst looking forward to a potential performance in Exeter in the near future.