Fatherson return with ‘Normal Fears’, their first album in three years. The band have toured with everyone from Lewis Capaldi to Enter Shikari and this new record finds them embracing a new, more melodic sound. They also structured the songs in a different way to before with samples of a Kilmarnock river and 30 ping pong balls inside a snare drum being just two of the things you can listen out for…
The record opens with the distorted pop sound of ‘End of the World’. While the music is more playful than before, the lyrics are suitably dark and steeped in sadness: ‘If this is the last day on Earth, I’m doing what I want’. ‘Love for Air’ continues with an effects-driven intro and Ross Leighton pining for a significant other – ‘I’ve waited so long for you, I guess I’ll wait a little bit longer’ – against a backdrop that falls somewhere between The National and Perfume Genius. ‘Normal People’ – named after the Sally Rooney novel and BBC adaptation – finds Ross opening up about his experiences with anxiety and depression, a key theme of this powerful record: ‘When they talk about normal people, they never talk about you and me’; ‘That uncomfortable silence starts to break down the walls’.
The Mitski-esque ‘Everything’ continues in this retrospective vein as Ross looks back on his past experiences and feelings of being overwhelmed: ‘I look for you in everything I do’. Album centrepiece ‘Honest to God’ is a piano-led piece about mental health struggles that stirs up all your feelings – especially when Ross tenderly sings the words ‘My head in a back cloud’ – while ‘The Feeling and the Sound’ reminded us of classic ’80s Scottish jangly indie (with a bit of Simple Minds), especially in the sing-along chant of ‘Let it out, let it out, let it out’. ‘Dive’ takes you back to Fatherson’s debut album with its heart-on-sleeve anthemic sound while ‘Better Friend’ is all about being honest with yourself and how this can help others learn from their mistakes: ‘I wish I was a better friend to you’.
‘All the Time’ finds Ross reminiscing about smoking cigarettes, singing favourite songs and laughing about things before you are both broken, all over a quieter soundtrack, while ‘365’ is a synth-driven piece about trying to keep on top of things: ‘I was out late, I was putting fires out all over the place. And these four walls, they start to crumble around’. The closing ‘Wreckage in the Rubble’ has more of a DIY feel as Ross vows to start a new way of life: ‘I’m tired of living in an argument’.
‘Normal Fears’ is a record that finds Fatherson embracing a poppier sound while simultaneously opening up about important emotional issues and personal experiences in a deeply affecting way.