Washington, D.C.-based Furniteur’s debut album, Perfect Lavender, achieves in eight cuts what most artists these days can’t in twice as many songs: A holistic experience of the human condition in a tight package laden with memorable, catchy synths and demonstrable human intervention.
From vivacious parties and tender, intimate moments to rough breakups, bittersweet exchanges, and palpable uncertainty — it’s all there in living color in dreamy, contemporary, and nostalgia-infused synthpop, classic DFA Records dance-punk, and the occasional outpouring of Chromatics-style sentiments.
The album kicks off with “Redundant Buzz,” a gorgeous post-punk number with dreamy synths, plucked electric guitar, and kinetic live drums glued together with the ethereal vocals of frontwoman Brittany Sims. Built floor-to-ceiling with catchy hooks and heart-warming melodies, “Buzz,” written with Pleasure Curses’ Jahn Alexander, is the retro-nodding contemporary cut we wish New Order would record in 2017.
“Swimming,” which rivals 2014’s “Modern Love” as my favorite Furniteur cut, is a stunning display of songwriting bathed in hazy, laid-back hooks that circle around you in a wave of ecstasy.
The trio of Sims, Kevin Bayly, and Mike Toohey unleash a comforting embrace of airy vocals, prominent synth-bass jabs, crystalline synths, and pink and blue synth pads carried into an aquatic valhalla by a tempered but commanding drum machine. (A note: Brett’s Mike Coogan wrote this cut with them, and it shows. Add to this the fact that Bayly used to be in Brett and you’re left with some profoundly pleasant Brett vibes.) It’s one of my favorite songs of the past five years.
“Fault” is a slightly dirtied sibling to “Swimming,” carrying on that cut’s sense of beauty but basting it in a little pollution. Sims’ pipes are distorted to reflect the existential utterings of the chorus: “It’s not your fault/I’ve had enough/It’s not your fault that we were never in love.” Even with the elements of debasement uttered in the lyrics, the song is inherently alluring as a vehicle for uplift. It’s an interesting, and even surprising, balance.
The darker sibling of those two aforementioned cuts, “Air Castles,” features some haunting specters that fly around the mix, genuflecting to a down-trodden synth lead. It’s a crucial cut for the album, because it helps convey the tougher side of the dynamic experience of just being in this world. (The lyrics aren’t as dark as the arrangement, but there’s a whole lot of wishing going on — and in many cases wishing and hoping go hand-in-hand with deep disappointment if left unrealized.)
“All the Punks” is one of the three cuts on the record with live drums by Brett’s Jonny Jester and one of the two that best represent the dance-punk dabblings of Perfect Lavender (the other being “Brat”). Jester and Bayly seem to mine some of their early days as part of The Dance Party, the dance-punk/power pop precursor to synthy Brett — the song I’m thinking of is “Let’s Start Some Trouble.” However, on both cuts they lean heavily on the dirty, strutting new wave of classic Blondie.
The thing about “Punks” is that it’s a blast to encounter. The song’s organic footing means it sounds big, with its big rhythms, big guitars, and big and fuzzy synth leads, but it doesn’t get so huge that it sounds out of place on Lavender. Sims’ tongue-in-cheek sing-talk delivery and subtle wallflower synths help keep it grounded. “Brat” gets a bit more audacious, but even it’s still swimming with the synthpop numbers.
The neon-soul banger “Mysteries” is a bit of a link between the album’s dreamier, synthier sides and its LCD Soundsystem tendencies. The cut’s got an air-tight rhythm section that leaves a whole lot of air for Sims’ vocals and the band’s excited arpeggiator and ominous counter-melodies. If Furniteur opened for Chromatics, this could be the song with which they close their set to prep us for the latter’s pop-tinged dark disco and dark-disco-tinged synth-pop.
The album leaves us with “Unforgettable,” a noirish synthpop cut with a killer sax solo. The ruminative cut is a great way to close the album, because it allows us to collect our thoughts after the rollercoaster of the first seven cuts and it slowly and carefully prepares us for having no more new Furniteur cuts to experience for a while. We can wait, though, because we’ve been left with an unforgettable, yet easily repeatable, collection of songs we can never play just once.
Perfect Lavender is available now via Prince George Records in digital and cassette.