While it’s true that “Starring”—an ecstatic slice of squiggly pop that deserves to be in the conversation when people are talking about the best song of 2010—contains traces of The Postal Service, it’s surprising how many times Ben Gibbard’s synthy side project has been name-dropped when talking about Freelance Whales’ debut disc. For starters, in spite of the expert use of electronics on Weathervanes, it isn’t an electro-pop album. Those looking for a good musical reference point to complement an inevitable comparison between the voices of Freelance Whales frontman Judah Dadone and Gibbard might as well just say that it sounds like Death Cab For Cutie. Of course, that’s only part of the story, as New York’s unfortunately named Freelance Whales also throws banjo, glockenspiel, harmonium, mandolin, and more into the mix, producing a gorgeous, layered sound that it manipulates with precision, expanding it into full-bodied beauty on “Starring” and the equally triumphant “We Could Be Friends,” or taking things down a few notches on the mellower “Broken Horse” and “The Great Estates.” Sufjan Stevens and The Arcade Fire have also been used as signposts, and Belle And Sebastian should be wedged in there as well, due in part to the fact that a melody from “The Stars And Track And Field” makes its way into the dreamy “Location,” but also because Weathervanes’ intriguing, thought-provoking lyrics and concept-album nature—it’s about a boy who falls in love with a girl ghost—make it a literate-pop gem.
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