Daniel's Staff Pick: February 2, 2023

Lately the grind of running Sorry State has been weighing on me. We’ve been busy and I feel like I’m falling behind on essential tasks. When I get overwhelmed, it’s hard for me to enjoy music. The problem is compounded because listening to music is part of my job for Sorry State, and sometimes it can feel like an endless treadmill of getting new releases in, giving them a few listens, and moving on to the next thing. Last weekend I blocked off a few hours of unstructured time for decompression… no plans, nowhere to be, no pressure on myself to take care of anything on my to-do list, just a little time to feed my soul whatever it needed in the moment. So, of course, I ended up listening to records.

I’m not sure what prompted me to pull out these two Fairytale records. They might have been at the front of my mind because I’ve been hearing rumblings they have an LP in the works. At any rate, I had that feeling that these are the records I wanted to hear in that moment, and since I had the time, I threw them on. And they sounded great!

I just re-read my descriptions for these two records I wrote when I named them Record of the Week in 2020 and 2021, and I don’t think I hit the nail on the head as to what’s special about them. As I wrote, Fairytale’s foundation is in noisy d-beat hardcore in the tradition of Swedish bands like Anti-Cimex and Shitlickers, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to describe them simply as a noisy d-beat band. But there’s so much more to their music, particularly on their self-titled 5-song EP on Desolate Records. Whereas a lot of d-beat bands aim for a heavy sound with a robust bottom end, Fairytale’s sound is like phyllo dough, a bunch of thin layers that feel substantial together without losing that sense of delicacy and complexity. I swear I hear phantom sounds emerging from the mix, poltergeists of feedback, echo, and distortion that dart through the music but evaporate before you can pin them down.

“Fantasy,” the first song on the 5-song EP, is my favorite track on these two EPs. Starting with a single guitar playing a simple, vaguely bluesy riff, inevitably the song erupts into a straightforward d-beat assault. However, there’s so much expression and subtlety to the playing. I love the way the guitarist accents the higher strings in part of the main riff rather than just banging away on the power chords. The riff creates an intense dynamic, interacting with the inventive vocal cadences and rock-solid rhythm section to create that alchemical magic I wrote about above. I also love the song’s coda, where the rhythm section continues barreling forward while two lead guitar tracks explode then wander away from one another, the rest of the band coming in for a final thump before the song lands and kicks up a pile of dust.

Sunday afternoon I posted some photos of my weekend playlist to Sorry State’s Instagram stories, and Fairytale’s guitarist Dan responded and offered to share recordings of their upcoming album. They were in my inbox when I got online Monday morning, and I listened to the record at least five times in a row. After that, I put it away, because I like to save some excitement for when the record arrives with its complete artwork and packaging. It was tough to stop listening, though, because it’s so killer. It picks up right where the EPs left off, leaning in to that ephemeral magic that is such a distinctive aspect of their sound. Of course, when it’s out we’ll do our best to get copies for Sorry State, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about it in the other parts of the newsletter.

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