Amidst those tumultuous university years of discovery and experimentation, five gentlemen assembled to create the Brooklyn-based outfit Fort Lean. They endeavoured to create a sound that existed somewhere between dreams and reality, sonically exploring the synchronicity of peace and chaos. What emerged was a breezy brand rock & roll informed by an irresistible pop sensibility, and defined by a collective songwriting process. Although the outfit released two early EPs, 2011’s selt-titled debut EP and 2012’s follow-up Change Your Name, which earned glowing reviews in The New York Times, as well as shows with HAIM and Future Islands, it’s only now, after 10 years together, that Fort Lean are finally releasing their debut album Quiet Day.
Opener Cut To the Chase is the perfect introduction to the band’s versatile but accessible sound. Although constantly bouncing forward, the mid-tempo track has an overwhelming sense of calm. Its catchy catharsis is pulled along by shimmering guitars and layers of keys over languid bass playing; all tied together by frontman Keenan Mitchell’s alluring Sunday afternoon croon. In the slightly more upbeat Just A Little Spirit, the boys prove masters of infectious, pithy melodies, before launching into the thumping New Hobbies, thumping rock driven by classic guitar, thrashing drums and cheek.
Interrupting the album’s initial stream of upbeat bounce is the hushed broodiness of its title track. Quiet Day is endearingly gloomy rather than nauseatingly angst-ridden, and perfectly built for rainy, introspective afternoons. Continuing this darker turn is the self-destructive In The Hospital, while the band’s potential for enthralling live shows is obvious in the high-octane Might’ve Misheard as the track fluctuates seamlessly between dreamy verses and a vivacious, enthusiastic chorus. I Don’t Mind, a spirited pop rock gem whose infectiousness is driven by syncopated bass, blustering guitars, ambling synthesiser, and an a’cappella breakdown at the track’s tail end, lifts the mood back to opening levels.
Fort Lean’s highly anticipated debut is a fantastic representation of their simple but effective aesthetic. With Quiet Day the group finds and maintains an irresistible balance between broody calm and infectious chaos, and is an album as consistent and cohesive as the band’s own collaborative history.