Let me start the review with this, Freja Frances is a superstar in the making.
‘Catching Fire’ is a very melancholic opener — it’s different. It’s immediately clear how soft, but distinctive, Freja’s voice is. Musically it consists of a melancholic piano and reverbed drums. Her voice evokes emotion, she sings it wonderfully, and the background vocals are delicate yet haunting. The songwriting is excellent, never cliched or plain. The only flaw here is, on occasion, the production. Vocally, Freja Frances sets the tone for this song, but it’s let down by the production, which is a pity. It doesn’t really add much to the song. The drums don’t have much impact, and I wish it were different.
I love the piano at the beginning of ‘Implosion’, it’s so pretty and warm. Freja’s voice again is perfect, her pronunciation of words, and effortless transition between highs and lows, is on display. The production here is stellar, but there is a slight problem with the mix from around :50 to the 1:25. I feel some of the background instruments are slightly too high, noticeable on speakers, and that the humming was too low in the mix. That’s only slight criticism, I just feel the song would be even more impactful with some minor tweaks.
The singing and songwriting — yet again — is a home run. One of the best moments is the perfectly executed delivery of a simple line, “how to feel”. From the two minute mark on, it keeps getting better and better. Though I do feel the song is mastered too loud, especially in the latter half, which takes away from the climax somewhat. Nonetheless, this is one of the album’s standout moments. A great voice and great songwriting.
‘Juliet’ is considerably more upbeat. Much like the first song, I think the production is lacking. It’s too quiet at times, just missing something to take it to the next level that it deserves. Honestly, I would happily listen to this song with only vocals and some soft strings. Oddly enough, the mix near the end is almost perfect, unlike the first half of the song.
Another standout is ‘Machine’. This is one of the best pop songs I’ve heard in a long time, it may be my favourite song on The Funeral. It’s very cinematic, with familiar piano, simple reverbed guitar, drums and something else I can’t quite discern. The vocals here are the best on the album, her high range is great. In fact, everything about her voice is flawless. Again, I feel the song is mastered too loud, and the mix isn’t balanced. With a few tweaks, this song could be on top of the charts. What a talent.
‘Start again’ doesn’t really stand out to me, and the production is plain. It is a decent song but not on the level of some of the earlier tracks. As far as pacing goes, it’s a nice breather.
The production on ‘Stay Awake’ is quite minimal — just a voice, a piano and a pad in the background. I like the piano here, but there are times I wish there was more variety to it. Her voice is the glue that keeps these songs together — Freja Frances is an incredible singer. This album is quite sad, but it never gets repetitive in its themes. That’s what good songwriting does, keeps your interest at all times and hits you in places that you would never expect. The writing here is excellent, listen for yourself, it’s emotional. Perhaps, the most consistent song on the album, ‘Stay Awake’ is quite the experience.
Titular track, ‘The Funeral’, begins with piano followed by the vocals, like many of the album’s songs. I think the addition of some sparse bass or percussive impacts would be great on this song in particular. The piano, at times, is a bit repetitive, and the track never reaches its full potential.
‘The Wolf’ is the a frustrating moment on the record. This is the most commercially accessible song, yet also one of the bleakest on the album. It’s really good. It’s perfect for a big cinematic thriller. Where do my frustrations lie? The song goes from nicely balanced. to moments where it’s too loud and the mix is uneven. It’s frustrating because the songs are excellent otherwise. When the production is just right, it’s a must-listen, and when it’s not, it’s taking away from the extraordinary talent that is Freja Frances. Musically, the song is upbeat, but it’s content is quite dark. Lyrically, it explores a depression that will consume you if given the chance. A very mature, smart piece of songwriting.
The Funeral is frustrating because it contains great vocal and musical moments. As someone who has experience with making and mixing music, it’s frustrating when there are noticeable production issues throughout.
All that aside, I hope this release marks the rise of the superhuman talent that is Freja Frances. You should go out of your way to listen to this album. It’s bleak, melancholic, fragile and very well written. The Funeral is quite different from much of what you’ll hear out there at the moment. It’s mature, emotional and ethereal. It’s an almost perfect release which I will definitely be coming back to.
The Funeral is out on September 13 via ShimmerSun Music.