Favez Bellefontaine Avenue

Hailing from Lausanne in Switzerland, it is probably safe to say that Favez are one of the few Swiss bands who have managed to build up a following in North America, thanks to the support of the loyal following of Doghouse Records. Bellefontaine Avenue, the band’s fourth album, sees them continuing their evolution away from being a Radiohead wannabe and slowly turning into a louder, more dynamic group. As long as they are delivering short, spiky songs in the vein of the Doughboys or Weezer, things are just fine, but when they veer towards Queens of the Stone Age they are simply no longer particularly compelling. Bellefontaine Avenue hints that Favez might still be one album away from making their masterpiece because they still haven’t quite figured how to focus on their strengths and ignore their weaker aspects, which still feature too heavily on this record. Much more satisfying is Lay Your Head On The Soft Rock, the debut release by the Sad Rubies. It is the side project of Chris Wicky, the singer from Favez, and it appears at least on the surface that he might just be a talented but frustrated country singer. He’s got together with a couple of his band-mates and a couple of friends from the Magic Rays and Chewy and recorded a low key acoustic album that might not be the best alt-country record to be released this year, but it is still a nice mellow treat that is probably better than anything that Wicky has recorded as part of Favez. The songs are personal, with biographical lyrics that verge on being uncomfortable at times. There are moments where Wicky’s vocal range appears limited, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, but it turns out that he is merely using restraint. Hardly an earth-shattering record, but definitely a surprise. (Doghouse)