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The Fresh & Onlys’ fifth album, House of Spirits is the San Francisco quartet’s most focused and most experimental yet.
The seasoned ensemble’s fiery feel and careful arrangements run throughout, but it also privileges The Fresh & Onlys’ experimental tendencies. There’s violent, churning guitar noise between gospel-like vocal interplay for “Bells of Paonia” and an ominous drum machine pulse underpins the unsettling finale, “Madness,” a track that inspired Miles to throttle his guitar with a power drill in the studio for what he calls “a sort of Einstürzende Neubauten moment.” As Cohen relishes mystery, camps out in dreams and hones his singular approach to glistening pop with sinister undertones, perhaps “Madness” speaks best to the Fresh & Onlys’ essence. The material gestated during vocalist Tim Cohen’s isolated stay on an Arizonan horse ranch where he documented dreams in a bedside notebook. The resultant songs are by turns pristine, feverish, and bizarre, as The Fresh & Onlys returned to Lucky Cat Studios in San Francisco with Phil Manley (Trans Am) to recast the textures, leaps of logic and evocative character of Cohen’s dreams into songs.