The Family Crest – The War: Act I (2018) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

The Family Crest – The War: Act I (2018)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz  | Time – 51:58 minutes | 1,08 GB | Genre: Pop
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © La Mer Records

Based in San Francisco, The Family Crest blends genres and dense orchestrations to create a sweeping musical landscape while maintaining a pop sensibility. The Family Crest have already earned widespread national applause for their extraordinary orchestral pop ambition but with THE WAR, the San Francisco-based collective makes their boldest, most fully articulated musical statement thus far. The second installment of what promises to be an epic musical saga, THE WAR: ACT I represents ”the next version of The Family Crest,” says frontman-founder Liam McCormick and indeed, the album reveals a band more in tune with its own large-scale Baroque eclecticism. Preceded in early 2017 by the PRELUDE TO WAR EP, the new album marks the first act of a greater multi-tiered project, a kind of serial concept album with a pronounced thematic arc that weaves ideas of pride and memory, dissonance and divergence, into a purposefully ambiguous but undeniably unified whole.

Formed roughly ten years ago, orchestral rock/pop outfit the Family Crest has always delighted listeners with their hodgepodge of gorgeously dense arrangements and invigorating songwriting. While past releases saw the core septet joined by outside players—an “extended family”, as McCormick call them—The War: Act I ups the ante by featuring approx. 150 musicians “of all different skill levels”. For the band, this serves not only as a means to yield the best record possible but also as “a way of meeting these wonderful people and giving them an opportunity… to make music”. It’s no surprise, then, that The War: Act I features some of the most multilayered and dynamic arrangements the Family Crest has ever written.

Of those trademark bombastic treats, opener “To Love You” serves as one of the full-length’s best. An initial array of foreboding yet victorious orchestration soon gives way to a softer melding of piano chords and McCormick’s elegant croons. It doesn’t take long, however, for the two to unify into a robust and alluring collage of symphonic vibrancy (including chaotic percussion, strings, and horns) and emotional decrees. It’s an impeccable start that sets the stage well for subsequent classical explosions, be they the more romantic and urgent “It Keeps Us Dancing” and “The Mighty Echo” (arguably the strongest track of them all), or the more jovial and hypnotic “Take Tonight”, “Waiting Still”, and “Never Gonna Stop”. Without a doubt, the Family Crest packs each track with plenty of baroque majesty. That’s not to say that there aren’t gentler and more diverse selections, of course. For instance, “Rest” scales back the intensity (well, until the end) to showcase bittersweet harmonies and subtle flute flourishes. Later, “I Was Born” acts as an exquisitely theatrical ballad, “Like a Light” oozes folksy somberness (which evokes the Great Depression, oddly enough), “The Years” bursts with the kind of flamboyant passion you’d find at a jazz piano bar, and closer “The Rock’s Resting on Your Back” fuses ’60s pop instrumentation with the kind of Old West flair so commonly attached to Quentin Tarantino films. It’s as boisterous, sophisticated, and fetching as anything else they’ve done, making it a magnificent finale.

The War: Act I is another triumph for the Family Crest, showcasing once again why they equal—if not outdo—just about every one of their stylistic peers. Of course, McCormick’s timbre and melodies continue to be among the most distinctive aspects of their sound, but that’s not to discount the importance and impact of the remaining musicians, all of whom excel at their instrument(s) and coalesce to craft some truly enchanting and resourceful opuses. It is a benchmark release for them, and it makes the wait for Act II quite difficult indeed.

01 – To Love You
02 – It Keeps Us Dancing
03 – Take Tonight
04 – Rest
05 – Never Gonna Stop
06 – Daggers
07 – Waiting Still
08 – I Was Born
09 – Like a Light
10 – The Years
11 – The Mighty Echo
12 – The Rock’s Resting on Your Back