Alexander Leonard Donat steps out of the darkness and doom and gloom of his Vlimmer project to make some upbeat, fuzzy dreampunk in Fir Cone Children. The Gothic complexities and Bauhaus-worshiping has been set to the side in lieu of an almost gleeful sound. A mixture of MBV, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Lush are intertwined with a manic speed and dexterous rhythm. Though Donat tips a hat to those that came before, he channels other musical vibes such as Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Nothing, punk rock elements, and sugary power pop as well.
Though this wouldn’t be a Donat project without a healthy dose of melancholy, longing, and doomed romanticism. Fog Surrounds Us feels like a caffeinated ride into a overcast fall day thinking about what was, and what sadly will never be.
When one thinks of shoegaze the tempo is usually steady but at a significantly loping pace. Fir Cone Children is anything but loping. A sort of dizzying rhythm grabs onto your lapels and never quite lets go through the entirety of Fog Surrounds Us. Tinkling piano, jangly guitar, and Donat’s ghostly vocals pull you into this melancholy power pop sound and for the course of the run time. Power pop hasn’t been this in-your-face and significant since those first few Red Kross records.
“Green Fox” explodes from the speakers in a wave of fuzz guitar, pedal-to-the-metal drums, and dreamy vocals(courtesy of Donat and Krissy Vanderwoude.) In fact, besides Vanderwoude’s vocals on a couple tracks, Fir Cone Children is a one-man operation with Alexander Donat performing everything. That adds a touch of bedroom pop DIY magic to the proceedings. “I’m Free(Taking Over)” has an early 80s alternative vibe. One of the biggest sonic touchstones I hear when listening to Fir Cone Children(and this track in-particular), is The Soft Boys. Donat has a Robyn Hitchcock quality to his vocals, which makes everything that much better. “No Darkness With You” has that Soft Boys vibe as well, but a little more morose than Hitchcock would allow things to get.
Elsewhere “Spider Monkey” carries with it some of that Gothic magic from Vlimmer, complete with a Soft Moon darkness in the wall of guitar noise. “Sleepy Mouth” sounds like a wonky Robitussin dream. A bit of Feelies and a touch of Plastic Bertrand, all thru a dirtied Mac Demarco lens. “Fall Asleep Not Down” has an almost psychedelic feel, with a Kevin Shields-like wall of drone. But Donat adds a bit of hazy dreaminess with his pop-centric vocals. Even album closer “The Seahorse” combines elements of early Cure, Interpol, and even the Strokes, all the while still sounding very much from Fir Cone Children’s world.
Fog Surrounds Us is the kind of album that we need more of. Alexander Donat as Fir Cone Children locks into a sad, dreamy, pop sound that is as dizzyingly upbeat as it is melancholy. It’s the kind of record that can pull you from the lull of life, and for the course of 11 songs makes the lull not so heavy.
8.2 out of 10