The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Megafaun’s self-titled focuses the Eau Claire natives

2.5/5Megafaun is known for being all over the place, and I think they’d take that as a compliment. I certainly meant it as such.Probably the most successful Eau Claire band that doesn’t feature Bon Iver members, Megafaun has historically bounced around alt-country, folk rock and experimental noise. I know, weird, right? But Megafaun’s genre-bending, eclectic sound works for one reason: they’re all virtuoso musicians.

However, their self-titled record (released on Hometapes on Tuesday) focuses itself much more than any of their three previous recordings. Sure, it’s still cacophonous and weird at parts, but with a few exceptions it’s an alt-country record and not much more.

The three-piece, consisting of Phil and Brad Cook and Dan Westerlund, subscribe to the Chippewa Valley’s greatest talents: harmonies and beards. Songs like “Hope You Know” showcase their vocal prowess.

Instrumentally, Megafaun is diverse but equally talented. Blending shimmery acoustics with slide guitar and keys gives parts of the album a country feel, while odd, cacophonous instrumentation on tracks like “These Words” blows up the comfortable vibe and gives the album an interesting edge.

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All in all, though this is probably Megafaun’s calmest record. The group focuses on song writing and folk-y instrumentation, and it shows. Unlike “Gather, Form and Fly” the self-titled record doesn’t challenge the listener much.

This can be good and bad. On one hand, “Megafaun” is an extremely accessible album that will appeal to a broad audience with well-crafted folk ballads and catchy, put together alt-country songs. Phil Cook’s voice shines through with a Southern twang picked up from his years living in North Carolina. Most the songs keep a slow, conscious pace and are gorgeously orchestrated.

However, what appealed to me most about Megafaun on earlier records was their unique, chaotic and noisy side. I’m not a huge fan of folk music unless it has something interesting to draw my ear and make me perk up. Certain songs on this record, such as “These Words,” do that but most of them just blend together into a wash of banjo, harmonies and brushes-on-snare percussion.

It’s not that they’re bad songs. In fact most of them are great songs, but there are hundreds of folk bands that write thousands of great folk songs and it’s tough for any one of them to stand out.

And sometimes I just like listening to something more than Neil Young.

It may sound like I have something against this new album, but that’s not true. It really is a good record that many people will fall in love with.

Unfortunately, those of us who know and love Megafaun as an experimental, noisy freak-folk trio are may not.

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Megafaun’s self-titled focuses the Eau Claire natives