Published Jul 20, 2016Faun Fables play a particular brand of neo-psych-folk or freak-folk that was popularized by Devendra Banhart and others in the mid-2000s, indebted to romanticized notions of the 1960s folk revival and outsiders from Neil Young to Daniel Johnston.
They're all great touchstones, but unfortunately, Faun Fables struggle on Born of the Sun with clumsy arrangements and too much wide-eyed eclecticism. Their website uses the outdated pejorative "gypsy" to convey their bohemian idealism, which aptly illustrates the problem: a modern band lacking self-awareness will invariably struggle to avoid clichés.
Performative mysticism and pastoralism clutter the lyrics in what are now all-too-common tropes for the genre (mountains, country scenes, the sun, stars, etc.). The first track, a 30-second intro of aggressive flute attacks, feels like someone making "THP-THP-THP" noises in your ears, while "Ydun," the first real song, exemplifies their idealized pastoralism using modal, medieval-sounding melodies.
Lead singer Dawn McCarthy's voice is quite beautiful, but gets mired unnecessary bells, chimes and other percussion (and on other songs, those same annoying flutes from the intro). On "Ta Nasza Mlodosc," the breathy male vocal inexplicably becomes throaty pirate yelling about halfway through, "Madmen & Dogs" sounds like a Tenacious D song without the comedy and the swampy funk mess of "Wild Kids Rant" sounds like Sesame Street covering Swans.
The first halves of "Country House Waits" and "Born of the Sun" both exhibit more restraint, and let McCarthy's beautiful voice shine. Despite her great pipes however, the band's arrangements make much of Born of the Sun feel like amateur hour at Medieval Times. A talented producer would be able to focus on McCarthy's strong voice and balance some of the band's more freewheeling tendencies. (Drag City)