Beauty and Undertow
With a gritty immediacy and a been-there voice, this songwriter continues to grow in his craft. Beauty and Undertow is collection of songs about love, sadness, hope, and the process of letting go. Chris McFarland takes his style of simple storytelling and arcs it with infectious melody and approachable honesty. A perfect illustration of the power of song.
Aggressive, emotional, acoustic based rock.
Chris McFarland's latest record, "Given", covers a vast musical landscape.
An aggressive, percussive, and capable acoustic rock album. "Given" expands beyond McFarland's bare-bones approach on his debut full-length, "As If To Lay To Rest", adding piano and strings, for a richer, more textural feel to his already dense delivery.
McFarland's trademark worn, in-your-face voice gives the songs their heart, while their soul comes alive through his rocker approach when he forceably plays his acoustic guitar like no other.
"Given" is a tightly produced, jagged, but still tender and poignant rock album appealing to indie, folk, and pop fans alike.
The music allows the listener to pick themselves back up, shake the pain off, and continue going, telling yourself nothing is going to beat you down.
Three From Given EP
Emotional, percussive, acoustic based rock.
Initially available only at performances, this 3 song EP was the prelude to the full length released in 2004. here is a review from Now on Tour:
Review by: Morley Seaver
While the sophomore release from Texas singer/songwriter Chris McFarland is only a three-track sampler, all indications are that this is a winner. The music is hard to classify. The artist calls it angry folk music. There is just guitar, (acoustic and/or electric) bass and drums with Chris McFarland's impassioned, often weary, vocals. Think Elliott Smith as a starting point.
The first cut, "Broken Laughter" wheels along before breaking down into a grittier guitar piece complete with urgent vocals. "Headstones and Names" is a dramatic neo-country/folk mid-tempo twanger with great vocals. He sings with such emotion, you feel he has to exorcise these feelings or risk imploding on the spot. "What Was Never Said" has McFarland wailing over an atmospheric melody with some restrained guitar.
This is an impressive sampler that showcases some above-average songwriting. There is a real sense of intimacy here, as if McFarland is in your living room with you. If this is any indication of the rest of the upcoming record, Given, there's an opus in the making. If you're going on a long drive and need some road music, look no further.
As If To Lay To Rest
Percussive heavy, melancholy pop-rock, this artist's burst of anger leaves you feeling refreshed, not at all depressed, as you vent along with him.
Gripping vocals, shredding lyrics, and a strangely optimistic melancholy are the meat and potatoes of Chris McFarland's sophomore effort, As If To Lay To Rest.
A percussive, acoustic rock album capable of leaving emo fans shaking, punkers with their jaws on the floor, housewives quivering, and alterna-kids feeling hip for a second or two, As If To Lay To Rest is as pure and emotional as it gets.
With thick layers of instrumentation fronted by McFarland's trademark worn, in-your-face voice and a tender ear for sophisticated pop poignancy, McFarland is able to combine the smarts of Elliott Smith with the boldness of The Replacements. All while crafting a tightly produced, hook-laden rock album appealing to indie, folk, and pop fans alike.
To put it another way, McFarland's As If To Lay To Rest takes you to a time when the party has ended. The premises has been vacated, and you're left to clean up the mess, wondering how you ended up in this situation, reminiscing of how you didn't get the girl at the party, and how life doesn't seem to be coming up roses at the moment.
Though, even with a dark, moody atmosphere looming overhead, a bit of sunshine cracks through the clouds and promises that tomorrow might, just maybe, be a bit better. And the day after that may find you shaking the dust off and picking yourself right back up.
Here is an album that hides the optimism, but has plenty of it. This is the album you always crave after the dark times seem to be setting in. This is the genius of Austin, Texas' Chris McFarland.
Distance For Departure
Austin, TX-based singer-songwriter delivers shivering, shattering, abrasive rock music with the heart-on-the-sleeve acoustic delivery that makes you want to weep.
Austin, Texas singer-songwriter Chris McFarland's debut offering. "Distance for Departure" is a seven-song collection of pain, tragedy, hurt, and anguish, coupled with soul searching, pondering, and memories that still haunt. It is restless and gripping, a from-the-heart, off-the-cuff portral of life's sadder moments, and how one finds their way out.
To put it better, here is Delusions of Adequacy's review, by editor-in-chief Jeff Marsh:
Chris McFarland describes his style of music "angry folk." I like the sound of that, but I don't think this album is really a folk album, and thus you should continue reading this review. Rather than being a folk album, although there is quite a bit of the folk-inspired sound, I'd call McFarland's work that of a singer/song-writer. And by that, I mean it's primarily McFarland's voice and his acoustic guitar (with drums used on two songs and keyboards on one).
Sounds folk to you, right? Well, it's all about how you put those two components together. The guitar is played emphatically, and that's where the "angry" part comes from. It has a percussive and dark sound, and it gives these songs an intensity that is just increased by McFarland's vocals. And the vocals make this album special. McFarland sounds like he is singing his heart out here, pouring out emotion and intensity in every song. He reminds me a bit of Bob Mould in the vocal department, and I swear I get chills.
From the start, this has the feel of a singer/song-writer album. The acoustic guitar on "Foreclosure" is played not fast but with emphasis, and McFarland's voice is slightly echoed, as if recorded in a big room, and quite emphatic. "Cover" has more of a full feel, with drums added to the mix and McFarland playing some driving electric guitar in addition to the acoustic guitar. Elements of Neil Young mix with Mould's band Sugar and the gothic-country stylings of Sixteen Horsepower on this track, which is one of my favorites. That being said, the next track, "Taking in Return," takes my breath away with the mix of electric guitars and acoustic and McFarland's vocals straining. It's all about the intensity. "I care too much about you and not enough about myself," McFarland sings on "Enough," which goes from intense to soft and subtle. "With My Absence" is heartbreaking. I take it as a story of a breakup, when the father is not allowed to see his daughter, which hurts everyone. It's also the quietest, more subtle song on the album. And the closer, "Summer," has the most gorgeous guitar in it. This song also shows off McFarland going from quiet and soft to loud and intense.
The style of guitar McFarland plays reminds me of that played by Ani Difranco. It's a percussive style, meaning you can hear the intensity by which the strings are played, and the guitar provides something of both a lead and rhythm feel. But the guitar is only one component here. Really, McFarland's voice and his intense singing style makes this album so amazing. Every time I hear his songs, I get absorbed into what he's singing about. I can only imagine that, live, McFarland puts the entire room under his spell. Powerful, powerful stuff. Angry folk? Perhaps. But I say it's sparse yet intent rock, and I like it.