Fendahlene is an indie-rock band formed in Sydney in late 1994 by Paul Whiteley (guitar and vocals), Ashley Hurst (bass), and Ben Felton (drums). After their debut in 1955 at the Iron Duke Hotel in Sydney, they gigged steadily around Sydney’s scene before releasing their critically acclaimed debut EP “Blue Fortress” two years later.
Two tracks from the EP were featured in a national advertising campaign for SHARP stereo systems, while their 1998 debut LP “Anyone Who’s Anyone” had various broadcasts, having been broadcast on Australian indie and mainstream radio and college radio in the United States.
In 2000 they teamed up with Australian producer Garth Porter for Lie To Me, followed in 2002 by the EP “Touchdown,” and by the 13-track double album “A Decade of Near Misses” in 2005.
Then Paul and Ashley relocated to Europe in 2006, and after a long hiatus, they slowly started writing again. Thus, having become a two-piece band, the new Fendahlene has gathered all their heritage’s preciousness.
In a nutshell, this is the story that leads us to “High and Low and Back Again,” their recent album released on July 14, 2020, which they recorded between September 2018 and October 2019 at Urchin Studios and mastered at Metropolis Studios in February 2020.
This powerful indie-rock duo has been honing their alternative style for decades. Their sound has expanded over time, reflecting more their various musical influences, ranging from melodic pop-rock, to alternative country, up to blues-rock. This is probably why their latest work sounds so dreadfully fresh and mature at the same time.
Song after song, Paul and Ashley trace a journey of frustration and doubt that never fails to result in uplifting reaffirmations of how the power to bring a positive change is something that lies within us. The key message of the album is that we are all involved in this current dysfunction. We are all going through it. But at the same time, we all have the power to make things better.
There are so many gems to be found on this album. Indeed each song of this release could deserve a focus. Starting with Burn Out, which serves as a perfect intro to the whole album, each track adds a dazzling spark to Fendahlene’s argument. Among these, we choose to highlight the title track for how it contains and condenses all the meaning inherent in the entire album.
Opened by the gentleness of a piano that gently hints at the melody, High And Low And Back Again is a track that charms you from the very first moment. It develops and builds up, swinging between alt-rock guitar and deep drum beat, growing on an uplifting crescendo that enhances the whole musical delivery in an organic and fluid way.
The arrangement of the song is something of rare beauty. Even without the melody, it offers an engaging dynamism, which in itself is something wonderful to listen to. Here the elements that seem to layer endlessly feed the choral message to the lush mix. Yet despite its power and density, it is never exaggerated.
The self-reflective lyrics are a further element of relatability. The way Paul traces years of experiences brought to a place of peace, offering a hook of inspiration to anyone. Words like “it’s really not defeat for you to compromise \ if only you could see what’s on the other side \ maybe you would change your point of view \ change your mind,” belong to someone who, after facing the twists and turns of life, he realizes that everything he really needs is in front of his eyes.
And while the song smiles and shines, driven by the compelling rhythm, here are Whiteley’s vocals, so soft, velvety, and fluid, sealing the brilliance of a musical delivery as resolute as it is organic. A superb production, certainly one that has few equals.
Here Fendahlene isn’t making us invincible superheroes. Rather, through a glimpse of the complexity of life, they open our eyes and invite us to turn our gaze towards a beautiful crescendo. One that makes us feel ready to face the world.
Listen now to Fendahlene’s album “High and Low and Back Again,” available for streaming on all the major digital platforms.
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