Fortnight: “Botany Camp”

Fortnight are probably the first band to quote the Centipede Farm in their official press bio. I know this because it was included in the package when they sent me their new CD, officially released just today.

Fortnight don’t care to be obtuse or glamorous. They don’t mean to dazzle you, and they don’t claim to be wizards or madmen. Fortnight aren’t here to sell fantasy. Fortnight are not the kind of band that transports your out of yourself; rather, they’re the kind of band that grounds you to that self, reminding you who and what you are. They’re one of those bands you relate to. They seem to operate from the school of thought that a few well-chosen open guitar chords, a simple keyboard line, and a few lyrics written from the heart can say everything that needs saying. They hail from the Music City of the Midwest, Omaha, Nebraska, and from the nearer side of the Missouri in Council Bluffs, Iowa — cities which, along with Lincoln, Nebraska, form a region that specializes in that kind of thing — the kind everyman stuff that people like about alt-country bands, but minus any shitkicker pretense. Fortnight’s music genuinely sounds like the result of a team effort; no member of the six-piece hogs the spotlight at any given moment. The songs make excellent use of the band’s dual vocalists, male and female, occasionally for harmonies but more often for change of characters to give the songs extra story line.

All this was already apparent enough from their demo and a not-recent-enough Des Moines live appearance. The promise of that demo is delivered on in their proper recorded debut, the Botany Camp EP, which presents six upbeat indie-pop songs populated with downbeat characters and situations. The CD sounds very professional from a production standpoint, even though the band did the tracking themselves in a machine shed and a spare bedroom before taking the tracks into a studio; also, a mastering job by Doug Van Sloun definitely never hurt a record. But given the fine recording and noticeably more detail in the musical arrangements, the CD yet retains a lo-fi spirit in many respects, most prominently in Jenn Bernard’s keyboards, but also in that Fortnight have built their skills while retaining the innocence around the edges that so caught my attention early on. The only song reprised from the demo is “Recycled Lions,” and while oftentimes a band’s earliest songs can lose some charm when they finally get them on a studio record, this version is every bit as winsome right down to its sing-along breakdown.

Fortnight elegantly balance on a line between youthfulness and maturity on Botany Camp. If “Making Asses Of Ourselves” was the mission-statement song of the demo, Botany Camp closes with its own, which though titled “Younger For Longer,” declares jubilantly in its chorus, “we’re all grown up.”

Botany Camp can be found on iTunes, CDBaby, bandcamp, and I didn’t manage to track down links, but Fortnight’s web site couldn’t be a bad place to start.

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