Fink - Hard Believer

Poetic inclination and an ex-DJ gone indie rocker will turn you into a hard believer.

Additional Info

7.9

ALBUM: Hard Believer

ARTIST: Fink

2014

Alternative

Fin Greenall does not belong in a single genre; one would not even begin to contain him. As a musician, he has dabbled, and possibly produced, in almost every style, learning skills and developing a taste for each, taking away what he enjoys and moving on to a new avenue of sound. He was surrounded by music his entire life, but began experimenting with his own sound after he began at Leeds University. There, in the early 90’s, Greenall met electronica and dance music.

"A couple of friends and I clubbed together our student loans and bought equipment to make ambient techno – we were really inspired by Aphex Twin and The Orb and Moby. We were amazed at how fucking easy it was to make ambient techno. It wasn’t easy to make good ambient techno," he laughs. "But it was easy enough to make techno good enough to get us signed after six months of mucking around at Uni.” The ambient techno group he refers to was known as “EVA”, and was signed to Kickin’ Records in 1993. Subsequently, his first album, Fresh Produce, sports a dub-sampling fondness paired with an attraction to trip-hop and techno roots. Through the new millennium, Greenall grew tired of the extent of electronic musicality, and felt disenchanted with the life of a DJ.

Leaving the collegiate sound behind him, Greenall took up with drummer and guitarist Tim Thorton and bassist Guy Whittiker, and today they make up Fink. To digress, the advantage Greenall did gain from that “mucking around” at Uni is an English degree, which provided him with songwriting chops that complement his coveted singing voice. These two talents were first produced together on Biscuits for Breakfast in 2006. His tracks like “Pretty Little Thing” utilize a musical tone and intensity that work alongside and properly convey the emotion of his songwriting through the simplest of details. For instance, Fink harmonizes layers of his voice as he tells the listener, “All my boys say, / she’s the type to fake it,” reinforcing the involvement of multiple voices.

Since he delved into a more bluesy, indie rock scene, he has collaborated with the unrivaled talents of John Legend, Professor Green, and Amy Winehouse, to name a few. As if jumping from musical genre to music genre wasn’t complex enough, Greenall, has been known to set intentions, or rather emotions, for Fink’s albums. Perfect Darkness, made in 2011, stemmed from a fear of embarrassment, or feeling of intense anticipation. He said he experienced this as a musician performing on stage. His 5th album harnesses the resounding sounds of presence, capturing a "sense of right nowness" and an "organic sounding recording" within the span of 20 days.

In an interview with Soul Culture , Greenhall said: “Especially in the early days; going out onto those stages and being that person – it can be pretty terrifying. But our vibe is, you can burn the house down with it, you can use the fire to ruin yourself and not do anything, or you can warm your hands and go, ‘this is great, look at this.’” Fink has learned to embrace these anxious feelings, channeling the energy towards facilitating an entire experience for their fans when playing live. The production team working with Fink is as involved in this process as the musicians are. “They’ve custom engineered a show that doesn’t overpower the music, but just kind of embraces you and it emphasizes some of the atmospheres in the music.” These “atmospheres” are constructed through attention to the smallest details; Fink has a vision for each of his tracks, and he works towards transporting the listener into this vision through sound, lyrics and visuals.

Hard Believer continues to facilitate his ability to reinvent the listeners’ atmospheres. The album title track is particularly successful in achieving a transformational atmosphere, with its use of live sessions and piercing, raw vocals. Its unintelligible range of tantalizing noises and echoes acts as a vacuum sucking the listener away from real things, like stress or plans. Anything outside of his voice becomes unimportant. It’s that quality that makes Greenall such a captivating artist, and it’s obvious which tracks are infused with this, and which are not. When his songwriting skills aren’t there to hold them up, some of the album’s later songs meet a much different fate than his successes.

“Pen on paper seems so definite/ Every innocent simplicity is intricate/ When it's in your hands it's harder to forget yeah/ Pen on paper seems to fit/ The permanence of it/ The green and the blue/ Have seen me through/These trials.”

1. Hard Believer
The album’s introduction emerges slowly, tentatively, as a lone guitar echoes in an audible emptiness. Their sound is immediately hypnotic, and the voices of Fink couple with the acoustic strums, steadily meandering upwards in intensity. The first words, “I can see the light coming/ Over the hill”, represents Fink’s methods of big impact through selective, minimalized sound and lyric. “Hard Believer” is an enticing, melodic love song that maintains a feeling of anticipation through the croon, “We were made for each other/ Won't you believe me now?” A drumbeat slides in alongside the rhythms, and before you realize, the tentative guitar has developed into a full-blown musical experience. “Hard Believer” carries the listener from an empty room into a heavy, harmonious trance.9.5
2. Green and the Blue
“Green and the Blue” moves into a more personal space, where the album picks up a beneficial dose of poetical lyrics. The mounting anticipation of the previous track melts in the warmth of Fink’s voice. He celebrates the permanence of the ink pen, a worthy tribute in this technological age. “The green and the blue/ Have seen me through/ These trials, these trials/ Pen on paper seems so definite/ Every innocent simplicity is intricate". The melody isn’t particularly innovative, but the depth and inspiration in the lyrics elevate the profundity of the track.8.7
3. White Flag
This track revisits the reverberating, eerie quality of Hard Believer; a thick drum sound keeps the pace of the song, coupled with airy echoes and intimations of electronic noise. The lyrics are minimal and impacting, pushing the album further into a realm reliant on alternative sound, rather than rock. “White flag/ Obey the signs” are the only words in the track, which instills importance and meaningfulness within them. The lyrics advocate awareness. The drum and guitar tick along, until all sound dissolves into the conclusion of the track.8.6
4. Pilgrim
“Pilgrim” begins with a catchy, energetic twang. It synchronizes with a deep bellowing cello. Fink’s breathy voice harmonizes over itself while he sings, “Come a long way/ not to ask the question that’s been on your lips all the way/Spit it out/ The words come out, yeah”. The beat speeds along, as if it might trip over itself, and Fink’s lyrics create an imaginary journey to accompany the sound. “From small beginnings/ To big endings”, is a motivational and inspirational line, fueling the metaphorical journey he constructs for the listener. The title of the track becomes more resonant as the song evolves into a pilgrimage itself. It begins at the entrance of a “long way”, and concludes at the “big ending” he promises. “Pilgrim” ends in a mysterious unwrapping of sound, leaving the listener, Fink’s traveler, to wonder if they’ve arrived.8.0
5. Two Days Later
Fink allows his songwriting to dominate this song, and it rises from a place of past personal romance. The musicality is brooding and mysterious. His use of staccato, enunciated rhyme in the initial beginning lyrics draws the listener in, adding an enticing edge to the lulling melody. He sings, “When we, spoke we, knew it wasn't over/ When I, spoke I, know it tortured us both”. The almost 6-minute track has a narcoleptic effect from the repetition of similar lyrics. A continuous ebb and flow of energy is given off, while the song moves from luminous to gloomy.8.8
6. Shakespeare
A country twang opens Fink’s track that appears to be a cry to the public school system. The first lyric, “Oh why, oh why do they teach us Shakespeare/ When you're only 16, with no idea, what it all means”, abruptly confuses the listener with the sudden literary reference and specificity of the complaint. Though he has the self-awareness to see he didn’t understand the iconic playwright at 16, his explanation, “It's deeper than that bro, it's a fuckin' tragedy", doesn’t fashion him in a more mature light today. He goes on to discuss another Romeo in a movie on the big screen who’s “keepin’ his cool” and “checking every hair”. The message conveyed in the song is muddled. “Oh you, taught me so much about you/ Taught me so much about love/ And yet I learn nothing”, but the listener’s left wondering if he knows anything about Shakespeare, or love, at all.6.0
7. Truth Begins
Fink struggles with his thoughts here as he works up to a heartbreaking confession. The guitar is imprecise with misery. His voice on the track is melancholy, and the repetition of lyrics, “I know, it’s late, I know it’s late”, amplifies his anxiety about getting this off his chest. The tone shifts for the refrain, “Layers on layers, layers on layers/ The journey unravels, and the truth begins, begins, begins”. His referencing here is far more ambiguous than in the previous track, but it seems to allude to the layers of history comprising the “journey” he has taken with this other person he reaches out to. “Truth Begins” lives up to its title through Fink’s raw, honest tone.7.8
8. Looking Too Closely
A new energy emerges along with a piano’s steady addition. The song becomes increasingly interesting when a lone percussion and a ringing chime join in the track. With the new additions, Fink keeps it balanced and in control by using repetitive lyrics. “Looking Too Closely” casts Fink in a defensive manner, as he opens with, “This is a song about somebody else/ So don’t worry yourself, worry yourself”, coming close to mimicking, “You’re so vain/ You probably think this song is about you”. Though he sarcastically lets, “The truth is like blood underneath your fingernails/You don’t wanna hurt yourself[…] By looking too closely”, roll off his tongue, the piano’s upper-octave trills keep the mood light. The ballad over the painful truth retains balance with glimmers of both sweetness and sadness.8.0
9. Too Late
This track comes across as a secondary rendition of “Truth Begins”, and with its references to the “end,” it sounds like our previous journey is coming to a conclusion. “Too Late” struggles to hold up on its own, as the lyrics are cyclical and full of crooning, “Oooooooooh”s. Besides the songwriting, the melody is too insubstantial to make this track as successful as its peers on the album. The song doesn’t detract from the Hard Believer overall, but it doesn’t add to it, either.4.8
10. Keep Falling
The last song on Hard Believer picks up a strong folk influence, and Fink lets his vocal strength show off a bit, vibrato after vibrato. His signature ambiguity is present in the lyrics like, “Keep falling, until you can’t fall no more/ Until you feel like, you’ve been falling for way too long/ then you will know about me, baby, you’ll know about me”. He tells the listener repeatedly, “It’s alright, it’s alright”, and between the softness of the instruments and the chorus of humming, you star to believe it. The track ends on a shining positive note, but “Keep Falling” doesn’t conclude leaving you wanting more from Fink. 5.3
Written by Shelby Tatomir
Reading and writing are my roots, making music, design, and photography sprouting branches of special interests that I am always striving to cultivate.

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