It only took Fleece until their second studio album to branch out and get ambitious, and the result was dazzling. “Voyager,” released on Jan. 19, is a concept album that addresses a question that haunts many: if you could go back in time to speak to your younger self, what would you say?
“Voyager” follows the journey of frontman and lead vocalist Matthew Rogers speaking to his closeted younger self. The album confronts the often-crippling feelings of alienation and uncertainty that come with being a young and unsure gay person.
It is certainly a departure for the Montreal-based group, which first attracted popular attention with their video “How to Make an Alt-J Song,” a light and casual parody that poked fun at indie rock titans Alt-J.
Marrying indie rock with psychedelia and jazz, Fleece bring a refreshing perspective to the indie genre.
For “Voyager,” the group leans harder towards the psychedelic sides, as showcased in the terrific percussion at the beginning of “What You’ve Done.”
The 10-track album features two instrumentals, including the dazzling “Voyager,” which is just over two minutes of synth-laden ecstasy. The second instrumental track, “Voyager (By the Sea)” is a delicately arranged and soothing piece of music.
Rogers’s vocals sail over the music, provided by his own keyboard, Ethan Soil’s drumwork and Gabe Miller’s bass guitar. Their approach to the subject matter creates moments of dazzle, especially in the climax to “Under the Light.”
“Under the Light” stands as one of the strongest tracks and is a powerful opening to a strong album. Another highlight song is “Fried Eggs,” the first single from the album, which is upbeat and steady that showcases Soil’s percussion and Rogers’s vocals.
Fleece does well with sticking to a theme for an album and are able to dovetail their unique sound into the deeply personal concept.
While “Voyager” is written about Rogers’ experience as a gay man, the themes presented in the music resonate deeply with listeners and serves as a cathartic listening experience.
“Why this sudden wave upon the night / I should be alright / But seven years I wondered / Wondered how I could change my ways,” a set of lyrics from the beautiful “Riverside,” can speak to anyone who has grappled with deep uncertainty and dysphoria. But it also resonates with anyone who has struggled with Rogers’s specific feelings.
This strong sophomore release makes one curious to see where the group will go next musically, and one can also hope that their already high level of artistry will continue to rise.
“Voyager” can be found on Apple Music, Fleece’s Bandcamp and Spotify.
Final grade: A