Mike Skipper, January 15, 2013
Listen: “Dance All Night”
Love Sign is an easy album. There are many adjectives that could be used to describe Free Energy’s sound (catchy, danceable, fun), but easy is the one I would like to focus on. The five piece from Philadelphia manage to create a very accessible, however somewhat shallow second album. Their first album, Stuck on Nothing, is a clear statement to the positivity that power pop can provide an audience. Allowing James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem fame) to produce and distribute their first on DFA Records was not a bad call either. Love Sign, however, is being released on the band’s own label, Free Energy Records. While the production value has remained high and the fun sound that the band is known for has remained intact, there seems to be something missing that made the first album feel so sincere.
One of the main features that stands out on Love Sign is the large number of vocal hooks that seem to dominate each track. The first song on the album and the first single to come from the album, entitled “Electric Fever”, starts out with the band harmonizing the first of many repetitive harmonies found throughout. Despite this, the lead vocals are captivating and energizing right through the chorus of “Turn it off, turn it up, keep on running free”. The second song, “Girls Want Rock”, starts out with a guitar riff that can only be paying homage to The Cars (a band Free Energy is often compared to) song, “My Best Friend’s Girl”, before bursting off into an absolutely danceable power-pop ballad.
One of the most fun moments on the album is the track “Hold You Close”. Having a sound that would not be out of place at a cabana somewhere in the Caribbean, Free Energy is able create a positive track about the merits of falling in love. “Hold you close, hold you tight, we’re going to dance in the summer night” is the motto that lead singer Paul Sprangers chants over uplifting guitar, bass, drums, and backing vocals.
For me, the stand-out track on the album is entitled “Dance All Night”. Starting out somewhat slower than the rest of the songs and featuring a driving bass line, Free Energy is able to show a greater depth in songwriting that is not on featured on the rest of the tracks. “What do I say, what can I do” is the line the echoes through the beginning leading into a somewhat heartbreaking, nostalgic trip through a past relationship in the narrator’s life. The vocal harmonies that are featured throughout the album seem to really shine though, giving an honest look into how well the writing process can work when the band is at their absolute best.
Love Sign is a fine effort for the young band. Many of the tracks are enjoyable, but there does seem to be a repetitive formula throughout the album. If you are looking for lyrical or musical depth, this may not be the record for you, but if you are looking for an easy, fun time, then Free Energy is your band.
Official music video for “Electric Fever”