The nine song debut from FXRRVST, pronounced as ‘forest’, rates among the year’s more imaginative releases. The collective talents of Matthew Fuentes and Holly Forrest make for an entertaining and enriching musical blend coupling a focus on vocal strengths with a strong musical pedigree that never coasts on any of May XXVI’s songs. These songs stand out, furthermore, because Forrest and Fuentes are able to imbue the tracks with the stamp of their distinctive personalities while, simultaneously, honoring their respective musical influences in recognizable and artful ways. The Toronto based duo has been working together since 2015 and have established a level of chemistry before recording this album that brings everything together in a coherent and highly engaging way. Despite the independent nature of the recording, Fuentes and Forrest’s songs are well produced and have a professional sheen that, nevertheless, thankfully fails to smooth out all of their rough edges. These are intensely human songs and they connect so well thanks, in no small part, to their honesty.
“Road to Nowhere” takes a relatively familiar title pulled from every day conversation and expands nicely upon its poetic suggestiveness. Holly Forrest proves on each of the album’s tracks that she’s a fine, thoughtful lyricist who tackles her writing with much of the same attitude informing the musical arrangements; there isn’t a single word wasted. Fuentes is a more than capable guitarist who, thankfully, knows the value of restraint as well and whatever additions he makes to any of the songs proves to be a suitably illuminating embellishment. “Picture Frames” calms things down a little compared to the kickoff’s energetic rush and it affords FXRRVST an opportunity to conjure a little more nuance in their musical presentation. The sensitive and rock sides of the duo’s personality unify nicely on the collection, but it’s also the tension struck between these elements that marks the material as different. “Drown Me” is much more conventional despite the dire sentiments reflected in the title, but the song is as much about desire as it is losing or giving oneself over to a feeling or phenomenon. The nice amount of variety that FXRRVST brings to bear on this release is made more evident by the track “Parks” and Forrest’s often exquisite, intimate singing elevates an already excellent song up several notches. “Tidal Wave” is the album’s first single and will undoubtedly find a wide audience given the right amount of exposure. This is one of the duo’s most melodic pieces while retaining the sharp writing setting their other songs apart.
“Safe House”, “June 8th”, and “Roofs” finish off May XXVI on an emotional bracing note and each of the song takes on a distinctly different musical than the preceding track. The first number is a moodier bit of song craft than we are accustomed to on the release, but it shares a lot in common with the songwriter-vibe defining a major part of the duo’s presentation. The middle track has a light alternative rock feel while “Roofs” puts a definite period on the album thanks to its relentless creativity and how fluidly it brings various threads of sound and tempo into a wonderfully coherent whole. FXRRVST will win you over from the first with their affability, melodic excellence, and depth of both intelligence and emotion.