Minneapolis-based artist Andrew Broder rekindles his Fog project with new album For Good, the first since 2007’s Ditherer. Starting out as a solo vehicle, the ever-evolving project has remained impossible to pigeon-hole. From the kitchen sink eclecticism of the self-titled debut, to the ramshackle beauty of Ether Teeth, the project then expanded on third album 10th Avenue Freakout to include a number of Broder’s fellow musicians resulting in a more full band sound while still indulging Broder’s eclectic musical direction. The indie rock elements on 10th Avenue Freakout came to the fore on follow-up album Ditherer with Broder’s turntable experiments and electronic leanings taking a back seat to the guitar, bass, drums combination of the newly minted trio of Broder, Mark Erickson, and Tim Glenn. Ditherer also featured a slew of guest appearances (Andrew Bird, Low, Phil Elverum etc.) which at the hands of a lesser artist could have been overblown, but instead were treated with subtlety, each individual contribution adding to the album’s overall sound.
This more traditional (if such an adjective can be used in relation to Broder’s music) sound reached its logical conclusion in Broder’s next band The Cloak Ox with Fog alumni Martin Dosh, Jeremy Ylviasker, and Mark Erickson, whose criminally underrated album Shoot The Dog found Broder flexing his rock muscle, albeit in a typically unconventional way.
New album For Good is a return of sorts to the solo ventures of the project’s humble beginnings with Broder taking on the lion’s share of the playing duties. However, the experience and maturity gained over the years is clearly evident with some of his most accomplished and affecting song writing to date.
There is a fairly consistent musical palette throughout the album, favouring piano, sweeping synth pads, popping, treble-heavy bass guitar, and Broder’s unique turntablism providing rhythms and more abstract sonic elements. The vocal approach also stays quite consistent opting for softly sung melodies and falsetto harmonies, giving lines such as “Jim, I can’t close my eyes” (from ‘Jim’), or the final verse of the title track an urgency, verging on despair. This combination of elements gives the album a cohesive sound which is a significant change for a genre-hopping project like Fog.
Lyrically Broder writes of everyday life with painful clarity and there is an unmistakable yearning in a lot of the songs. The repeated refrain “Love keeps on trying” on ‘Trying’ seems less a message of hope than hopelessness, and when Broder questions “is it like this for good?” on the title track it rings like a forlorn, futile plea for a life with more to offer.
These themes may sound morose but are never heavy-handed and in most cases counterbalanced with contagious, idiosyncratic grooves. From the garage funk chorus of ‘King Kuma’, to the swirling bass-hook in the closing passage of ‘Cory’ there is much to take joy in. And as the album draws to a close the sweet piano balladry of ‘Father Popcorn’ leaves a small flicker of light and if we can only reach out and touch it everything will be ok.
A new Fog album is always celebration enough but the depth and ingenuity at play on For Good is something to behold. By far one of the standout albums of the year, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next one.