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If this first record is representative of what’s to come out of LowRay’s camp in the future, Irving and Fowlds are going to be in for quite a ride as they embark on the next few years of their career. Friends and the Fakers is a very accessible, fun record that I found just as enjoyable to listen to as a collective piece as I did cherry picking through its tracks casually on a rainy afternoon. Lyrically these songs are a combination of contemplative dialogues, witty anecdotes and brooding confessionals, with the music providing an exquisite soundtrack to accompany them. Friends and the Fakers is an engaging listen for sure, but it’s also a very easy record to pick up and get into without ever having heard LowRay perform before.

Friends and the Fakers is a very ambitious debut album, more so when you compare it to the lot of similarly stylized releases in 2018, and LowRay manage its sprawling design seemingly without any difficulties. The content here is extremely diverse, but it all gels together with a poppy cohesiveness that is sealed by the excellent soundboard work provided by Jim Scott and Ian Davenport. As a blueprint of their sound, LowRay’s debut album leaves little for us to ponder moving forward and perfectly encapsulates the style and artistic persona of a band that is ready to take their aesthetic to the next level, and it also offers us a glimpse into what could be one of the most intriguing approaches to Americana that I’ve heard in some time.

The Nazareth-inspired intro on “Sooner or Later” put a big smile on my face when I first played this album from beginning to end uninterrupted; not only does LowRay know how to be ironic and reverently creative with their music, they also know how to be witty and earnest. The cavalier “There’s a Place” wraps up Friends and the Fakers on a particularly upbeat note, and upon its conclusion, it leaves in its stead a couple of questions about what we just experienced. Is LowRay’s virgin album a formal projection of their definitive sound, or is it but the first stepping stone in a long evolutionary journey? At any rate, it’s a stellar way to enter the recording scene, and I for one couldn’t be more impressed with its artistically virtuous, substance-filled material.

Minneapolis singer/guitarist Daniel Fowlds of Pill Hill shows off his prowess for Cheap Tricky and Sloan-style power-pop in this new band with drummer James Irving, celebrating the release of their debut album “Friends and Fakers” with a full-tilt lineup including Porcupine, Little Man and the Melismatics’ Ryan & Pony.

The muscular riff that introduces us to the eponymous first track of Friends and the Fakers doesn’t waste a second before nudging all who press play on indie rockers LowRay’s debut album into the searing heat of the pair’s decadent sound. Mechanically stretching our palates out right alongside its soaring melody, this opening salvo has plenty of opportunities to devolve into a mess of tuneful white noise, but it resists the very notion every time. The pointed lyrics of front man Daniel Fowlds are consistent and thick next to this bruising groove, but as we move into the supple “Western Song” and eventually towards the simple acoustic jaunt “I’m Sorry,” the sonic assault becomes more poetic than rhythmic, and Fowlds’ emotional lyrics ascend to the forefront of our attention.

If you like power pop bands like Big Star or the Posies and you have nostalgia for your ’68 Mustang, LowRay is right in your wheelhouse.

LowRay's enduring success will likely be due not to a purely original sound but from the unabashed exuberance that Minneapolis native Daniel Fowlds (singer/guitarist) and British born drummer James Irving bring to their colorful twist on the fantastic array of classic influences that infuse their passions. Nothing wrong with balancing delightfully catchy, crisp and edgy, and dreamy, lilting and soulful, alternating cool vibes from track to track, as long as they’re sincere eminently infectious and enjoyable.

The Big Takeover is pleased to premiere a cut off the album, the engaging and melodic throwback “8 Track Tapes” (Remember those?). The tuneful, laid-back power pop number is filled with bright harmonizing vocals, shining guitar lines, spacey to subdued keyboard notes, a supple bass line, and a shakin’ drum beat.

Frontman Dan Fowlds comments on the song, revealing, “As a kid growing up we had an 8-track player in our ’77 Chevy Caprice Classic. I thought they were fascinating but never really understood how flipping between the tracks worked. Unless you have used one, it may not make sense. Sometimes late at night you can have thoughts that come at you out of nowhere followed by another that keep you awake and you can’t shut them off. There is something similar to the way my brain works and how 8-track tapes players play."

On “Friends And The Fakers,” LowRay is able to make alternative rock attractive again. With dreamy vocals, fuzzy guitars, and on-point arrangements, the track builds upon the sound of Del Amitri and Delirious? while having LowRay forged forth with their own unique approach. The guitar/vocal dynamic is highlighted through Friends and The Fakers, a deliberate decision that ensures that each part is shining as brightly as possible. LowRay make an easy-going effort that has a much deep side to it chugging just below the surface. We’d love to hear more from the band in the months and years to come.

 

“Friends and The Fakers” is heavily stained with classic rock jams and influence. The relatable lyrics, “You get your joys between the friends and the fakers, givers and takers, superstar-makers…” stick out like a nail in your skull.

Although drummer James Irving is originally from England (before coming to the States, he played in the incendiary blues-rock outfit 22-20s), LowRay is a Minnesota band through and through, and they’ve become star attractions in the competitive local scene. Their music has the inventiveness, tunefulness, and incisiveness we’ve come to expect from Twin Cities artists. “Friends And The Fakers”, the first single from the upcoming LowRay full-length, picks up right where Columbia left off. It’s a meditation on trust and authenticity, and it’s also ferociously catchy.

Opening with gleaming Tom Petty-like guitars atop a compact and contagious pop-rock melody, "The Friends And The Fakers" reflects retro flavors harking back to The British Invasion, only with contemporary energy and iridescent harmonic colors. Fowlds' nasal tenor exudes delicious drawling tones, as silky vocal harmonies inject the tune with coruscating textures. The lyrics consider the paucity of trust in human interrelations when confronted with pervasive ambition and self-serving deception. "The Friends And The Fakers" glows with tight, intent harmonics, both captivating and alluring, as well as Fowlds' stunningly dense voice. LowRay certainly has it going on.

Minneapolis supergroup LowRay play the sort of sun-kissed fuzzed-out Americana pop that most bands emulating Wilco actually want even if they don’t know it. Columbia came out a few weeks ago, but it is a solid EP worth a listen. Make a random mix of LowRay, the Jayhawks, Ten Ton Bridge, and yes even Wilco, get in your car, and hit the road on a day trip this summer. You will thank me when you return.

Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles

Best Song: “Self-Medicating”