Let’s get right to it. Over & Over / Frame by Frame by Photo Fire is an exceptionally beautiful album. It’s captivating from the first note until the end. Every song has its own identity. This very talented quartet was formed in 2012 in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida. Though they’ve been around for quite some time, Over & Over / Frame by Frame is their debut album, which Photo Fire recorded and distributed themselves. This masterful work of art was released on March 25. They classify themselves as indie and art rock, but there are definitely progressive elements as well.
The Floridian four piece is made up of Hunter Walker on vocals and keys, Ricky Kenny on guitar, Bryan Christy on drums and percussion, and Jeremy Malizola on bass (and also keys and percussion). Walker’s voice is incredible and unique. The only person I can compare it to would be Billy Corgan, but minus all the annoying parts. All of the musicians in the band are extremely talented with their instruments, but Walker’s vocals and Christy’s drumming shine the brightest. Get ready to float through an aural tapestry for the next 59 minutes!
Over & Over / Frame by Frame opens with “Cold Blooded”, which could easily pass as a radio R&B song in the beginning with the synths increasing and programmed drums building into the full band crashing in about a minute through. You can very quickly hear that Photo Fire definitely have their own signature sound. Bryan Christy’s dazzling drumming carries the band to levels most bands aren’t able to reach. Also, for this being a DIY record, the audio quality is impeccable. It almost makes me want to take a trip out to Clear Track Studios in Tampa. The record can hang with projects released by bands from major labels! Props to producer Spencer Bradham and Mike Johnson for mixing and mastering.
One really cool thing Photo Fire does on this record is experiment with different time signatures. It’s nothing overly technical, but it’s cool to hear songs in 5/4 (“Cravings”) and in 6/8 (“Wasted on Each Other” and “Greed and Giving Up”). They also use dynamics really well to give the record an almost fluid feeling, never staying static. Some songs are very piano driven, and they are generally the more emotional numbers on the record. The piano heavy tunes are “Wasted on Each Other”, “One of Us”, and “T F E”. The title track, “Over & Over / Frame by Frame” is just piano and vocals, and it is hauntingly beautiful.You can pluck any song from this album and argue that it is the best one. However, some songs do stand out as my favorites. The dynamics on “Slow Talks” are what make it so special. It begins with a slowed down shuffle beat and piano and then layers of strings explode to add intensity and beauty, only to drop out to just strings and electric piano. “Cravings” stands out because of the odd time signature used throughout the song; Christy’s break beats in 5/4 steals the show for me. Also the outro on “Cravings” is a dope drum and percussion breakdown, making this the number one song in my heart.
Every song has its own level of gorgeousness, but “One of Us” is by far the most exquisite piece out of the twelve songs. The main elements once again are strings, piano and vocals – Photo Fire‘s key to audio perfection. “Moths” clocks in at just under eight minutes, with the dynamic shifts driving the intensity. This song seems like it could have fit on El Cielo by Dredg. The finale is “T F E”, which gives off a The Postal Service vibe. It’s carried by synth drums and piano. And if you were to guess how the record ends, and your guess was piano and vocals, you would be correct!
For a twelve song album, it never lets up or gets boring. Photo Fire‘s originality and ability to pick pieces from different genres make a beautiful fusion with so many colors and tastes. That formula also makes it quite difficult to compare them to other bands. Photo Fire ooze originality, and that is something very rare in music these days. I genuinely love listening to this over and over and this will be perched near the top for my AOTY choices as the days pass by in 2018. I highly suggest diving into Tampa Bay’s finest, and enjoy Over & Over / Frame by Frame.
Notable Tracks: “Cold Blooded”; “Slow Talks”; “Cravings”; “One of Us”; “Moths”
FFO: Dredg, The Postal Service