'Staring at The Ice Melt,' the debut full length from Fortune, is at its best when it occupies the point where Nintendocore meets 'NME The Album'-friendly electro-indie.
Album highlights include the geek-chic of hand clap-studded previous single 'Bully,' and the beeping, squeaking, ragtag collection of arcade synths that is 'Under The Sun.' 'Under The Sun' does occasionally take things a little too far - the buzzing at the end is like a buzzsaw to the ears - but on the whole this is a quirky, kooky blend of indie posturing and geeked-out synths.
'Gimme' is another song that you'll love to hate. Lionel Pierres hiccups out his vocals in a manner that's fun and catchy, but also perpetually on the cusp of becoming unbearably irritating. Thankfully, there's a boatload of nerdy synths to distract you whenever Pierres' voice threatens to become too much. 'Gimme' is jaggedly infectious, but not for those with a low irritation threshold. The angular stutter of 'Since You're Gone' is another track that'll set your teeth on edge even as it gets your feet tapping. However, this song is crying out for Fortune to kick it into second gear during the chorus, and by rolling contentedly along they miss an opportunity to seal the deal. Everything you need to know about this song, you can learn in the first twenty seconds.
Of course, Fortune don't always get the delicate balancing act between being irritatingly catchy and just plain irritating, right. 'Nothin' is guaranteed to have you grinding your teeth. The relentless bounce of the drums is like being beaten repeatedly around the head with a sledgehammer. Even when the drummer takes a breather, he's replaced by the dual-pronged nerve-shredder of a blaring, impossibly protracted "whoa-oooooooooooooooh!" backing vocal, and a main vocal where Pierres yammers "nothin' / nothin' / nothin' / nothin'" like a crazy person. A song to try your patience.
Meanwhile, 'Celebrate' highlights one of the major pitfalls with synth-centric music: one single, ill-advised synth can drive the listener completely up the wall. Good luck hearing anything beyond that chugging underling synth. Although, maybe that's a blessing, as Pierres' cries of "hey! / hey! / hey! Let's celebrate!" would probably just annoy, if you managed to tear your attention away from that horrendous background bleating. Meanwhile, 'Pimp Pop' eschews the synths, but finds another way to irritate, with a super-slick back and main vocal interplay.
But, this album doesn't fit neatly into the electro-indie pigeon hole. Fortune treat us to a handful of experimental tracks, to varying degrees of success.
'At Night' and 'Highway' are cut from the same, straight-faced electro cloth. Oddly, this seriousness saps the joy out of 'At Night,' while on 'Highway,' it actually makes the song more fun.
Firstly, 'Highway' has an introduction: 'Highway Part 1.' An estimated six piano keys make up 95% of this track. At first, these icy, echoing notes sound atmospheric but, after the twenty-seventh repetition, they're just plain irritating. Best off skipping straight to the good stuff: the so-uncool-it's-cool, techno cheddar of 'Highway.' This is pure, 80's-arcade-game soundtrack, where the earnestness of Pierres' vocals only makes 'Highway' even more of a hoot. How well 'Highway' works is probably something of a happy accident, but that doesn't detract from the guilty pleasure goodness of it all.
'At Night' meanwhile, is a solid stomp of buzzy electro and mind-numbing, dance-inspired lyrics, but it's lacking the individuality of Fortune's less serious, electro-fest tracks. A few more angular synths, ala 'Highway,' and Fortune might have just gotten away with it.
With 'Fancy Roll,' Fortune take a trip to the sleazier side of town. This song's slow swagger, combined with an edge of distortion and carefully-placed guitar crunches, makes this 'Staring at the Ice Melt's most rocking track. The inclusion of breathy female vocals during the choruses, creates the perfect little alt-pop bubble. There are a little too many instrumental passages, where you'll realise how repetitive the music really is, but, apart from that, 'Fancy Roll' is an album highlight.
After surprising us with the sleazed-up 'Fancy Roll,' Fortune pull out another winning, wild card. The bleak, urban atmospherics of 'Poison' really do come out of nowhere. Slathered in distortion and accentuated with perfectly-placed, scuzzed-up snarls, and finished off with icicle synths, 'Poison' is a black-hearted spine-tingler, and a great, if unexpected, way to end the album.
'Staring at the Ice Melt' hits the mark with both its spiky, nerdy indie-electro tracks, and its deviations into more experimental terrain. However, these hits are balanced out by just as many misses, with songs that are just too abrasive, or too content to rest on their laurels. 'Staring at the Ice Melt' is an album that shows promise. Hopefully, Fortune will hit the mark more often next time around.