Album Review :
Falling Up - Falling Up
By Zac Zinn in Reviews | 17 Comments
Let’s talk about perfection executed through a concept album that never loses its flavor or mysteriousness. After announcing their break up years ago, Falling Up thankfully returned though transitioning into a studio band for the most part – rarely playing shows. From Fangs! back in 2009, Falling Up has made a consistent and indisputable case that they are the kings of experimental rock among the Christian music scene. Their final album, rightfully self titled because it encompasses the greatest of all their albums, is one to behold as a masterpiece.
“Boone Flyer” begins with ambient percussion and a piano, quickly showing the diversity of musicianship that shows throughout the album. The lyrics on “Boone Flyer” – and the rest of album as well – can be hard to understand but somehow it doesn’t hinder the effect of the music. The self titled album perseveres through the thoughts and feelings the songs give through their sound – not necessarily the lyrics themselves. The opening song feels like an uphill fight that throws obstacles in your way, but you never give up. You keep going no matter what.
It’s difficult to have a layered song like “Flora” and still sound pleasant let alone beautiful. It’s layered with keyboard effects, both acoustic and electric guitar, and again – ambient percussion. Somehow, the song isn’t muddied or busy and in fact has one of the most infectious choruses in the album.
Metal bands always boast with each new album that it’s their heaviest yet – usually adding something about being the most melodic at the same time. Although clearly not a metal band, Falling Up achieves an inspiring beauty and heaviness often in the same song.
The underlying reason why this album is a work of art is the fact that it’s a story with unclear words. Each listener is free to interpret and create their own meanings from it. The album instantly becomes personal because it almost feels like the album belongs to you. It’s a story that you had a hand in crafting. This becomes apparent during the bridge of “Flora” more than four minutes into the song.
Another impressive item is the length of the songs. It’s one thing to have a song or two reach long lengths of six or more minutes, but in this journey, eight songs reach more than five minutes. At no point does it drag on, become mundane, or ever repetitive.
Something beautiful shows in “The Woodworker.” Like previous songs, it’s layered but it carries a sound of purity. The chorus is driven by piano and splashy drums and any amount of words I throw at trying to pin it down and define it will fail what feelings and thoughts it brings to my mind.
“Wild Bird” is a peculiar song because the first half of the chorus is softer with clean guitars and a laid back feel. But suddenly it kicks into possibly the heaviest moment of the album.
Singer and lyricist Jessy Ribordy has always thrived on storytelling through his music and it’s shown full scale on this final album. But what do we know about his vision for the story? A repeated statement throughout the album is first heard “Typhoon.” The character knows a secret and is forced to go “out to sea” so he doesn’t tell anyone. The story is also undoubtedly about a brother and sister but it’s unclear if the story that’s being told in first person is of the rotating perspective of either sibling – or a third unnamed character.
“Rangers” features one of most enticing intros involving bells and reverb drenched vocals and drums. When the guitar enters with its picking and chugging, it sets itself apart and begins the end of the album on just as strong of a note that this timeless album began on.
“Up In Houses” gives the most clarity of Ribordy’s story with clear and clean vocals. From what I can gather, the brother in the story (Coby) made a big mistake. He possibly murdered somebody with references of somebody else’s blood on his hands. Coby hides it and everyone believes him. It’s hard to figure out which part of the song is the chorus as it doesn’t follow a traditional format of a normal song. The song becomes a chapter in a book rather than a track on an album as it nearly never repeats any lyric. It continues on telling a story of a terrible crime being blamed on an innocent party.
The story of Coby and Evelyn (sister) comes to close on the second to last song. “The Insect” puts the finishing touch, fully assuring the listener that the album is – through in through – true perfection. The song is heartbreaking with the music escorting the story through its final chapters. This third unnamed character takes the fall for Evelyn for what I would assume is the crime mentioned in the previous song. “I’ll take the fall for you my angel. Out on the streets there are headlights. I’ll take the fall for you my angel, now I’m out to sea.” The character sacrifices himself for the sister, Evelyn whom he loves and is forced to go out to sea and leave her.
The song ends with Ribordy singing with just a piano behind him, “In your room, some summer you’ll lie and I’ll fly through your window.”
“Flares” ends the album on the right note. Following such a vulnerable and sad song, Falling Up ends with riffs, and a highlighted performance from drummer Josh Shroy. At this point it’s no longer fair to call this an album consisting of songs as it’s much more a story containing chapters of a story.
From their first album to their last, Falling Up’s career has spanned 14 years and 8 full length albums as well as EPs, remix albums, Christmas albums and acoustic albums. When you think of how to end an iconic career, even the best case scenario fails to reach the mark this LP has left.
Its interesting how few of my Christian friends have heard of Falling Up’s recent work. Ive tried to get several of my friends into it. Its so hard to describe why it is good. Lately Ive been saying, “Its kinda like if you watched Stranger Things out of order. except its music.”
Cue blank stare…
Dude, that’s a good analogy. Falling up newer stuff is awesome. I usually describe it as Syfy rock.
I just wanted to say I totally don’t understand this analogy but I totally love it just because it incorporates Stranger Things.
Man. I having Falling Up marathon as I study. Your Sparkling Death, Fangs!, Midnight on Earthship, Hours, and the self-titled. Why they so good?
Edit: I didn’t mean for this post to look like Cookie Monster typed it, but I’m just gonna leave it that way because it captures my excitement.
I love this album. I was really into Falling Up’s first two albums and then kinda fell back from them during the most of their experimental phase (but while having deep respect for their experimentation). This album kinda caught me off guard. I decided to just check it out one day, and it just blew me away. “The Insect” is one of my favorite songs from the album. I can listen to it on repeat.
I remember reading this review last year and getting really excited to check it out. It wasn’t until a couple months ago that I actually got around to it, but I’m so glad I did. It’s beautiful and strange, with incredible songwriting. One thing I really appreciate is the drumming on the album; it’s so much more than a beat, it’s the driving force behind the life of the songs, allowing the rest of the instruments to flow and weave in a way that feels smooth and natural. Fantastic music, fantastic cover, fantastic review, thanks Zac for writing this in… Read more »
Excellent review Zac. This album was definitely one of my favorites of last year. I didn’t think Falling Up would be able to be Your Sparkling Death Cometh but this record does it. Perfect conclusion to their career.
I have heard nothing but praise for this album & it’s funny because Falling Up is one of those bands I just never checked out growing up (even tho being associated with bands / the sound that enjoy). This review has tipped me over the edge so I’m gonna have to check this bad boy out!
Is this album an allegory for something?
I’ve never bought anything from the band, heard the praise for them on IVM for years but never been grabbed by the songs I’ve heard. This sounds absolutely ridiculous but that album cover is so amazing I want to buy it anyway. 🙂
I’m curious about the lyrical content. It’s a story, I’ve gathered that. Is it symbolic in some way? Is the story interesting? It seems like it.
The story is very interesting and intriguing because it’s hard to nail it down as far as the concrete details. The lyrics are centered around forgiveness and grace – that’s always been a theme for Falling Up
And don’t worry haha, the artwork is stunning. I have the album on vinyl and I hold it precious to my heart.
This album is just stunning in every aspect, musically, lyrically, and thematically.
Do you know if there is still a place to buy the album on vinyl?
Not anymore. They only pressed 100 of them and didn’t really advertise it. Once fans slowly found it, it disappeared quickly. I got lucky and picked one up. You’re only hope would be ebay, sorry
A year later and this is still undoubtedly one of the best albums of 2016.