I’m not totally sure of what genre to slap on The Fretless. They’re a combination of Stan Rogers in a sea shanty, Mozart getting drunk in a pub and Parliament flying in a funky string quartet spaceship. Seriously, let me explain.

A strong East Coast vibe takes the listener on a dance through traditional folk songs from the Green Isle, but the vibe goes further. I reference Mozart because the arrangements are complex, but almost always pop-sensible. Once-familiar folk melodies are transformed into something big and beautiful. It’s hard to believe the band is only a four-piece, as counter-melodies and flourishing scale runs weave in and out of every song seamlessly.

The groove changes everything as The Fretless gets shamelessly funky. Perhaps it’s just my awful white-man groove, but I find myself not only head-bobbing, but head-swooping with dropped shoulders and all. The songs are brief, generally ranging from three to five minutes — another pop-sensible move that will keep audiences endlessly transfixed by constantly changing moods.

The most welcome surprise comes halfway through the record. After four tracks of string arrangements, the listener finds a voice — and not just a voice, but a soft, dreamy temptress of a voice. This other dimension completes the record’s genius as it speaks to a larger audience.

A lot of bands have what I call the “sophomore stutter step.” It’s hard to top a killer breakout album, but it looks like The Fretless are going two for two.

By Sean Hamilton

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