Filed by Casey Phillips
“Bleeder,” the first studio album by Louisville-based pop-rock quartet, The Fervor, has moments of brilliance, but suffers from a bit of an identity crisis.
Frontwoman Natalie Felker’s vocal delivery forms the keystone throughout, shifting from a low husk to haunted and distant from track to track. Her vocals thread their way through a framework rife with piano laid over subtle percussive backing and, often understated, guitar punctuation.
Whether soaring above the rock metronome guitar/drum pairing of “Let’s Fight” or providing a sultry staccato accompaniment to the keys-heavy, listless lines of “The Void,” Felker’s delivery has — with rare exception — just the right hooks.
Backing the prominent vocals, Felker’s husband Ben (lead guitar), Mat Herron (drums) and Michael Campbell (bass) provide a solid, if background, framework. The clear center stage act here is Felker the Mrs., though her husband and Herron provide vocal accompaniment from time to time.
For all her versatility, however, Felker’s voice does falter on occasion, though the fault is more often with sketchy songwriting than her singing. The lyrics of some tracks like “Fast” attempt to squeeze too many words in without the necessary beat count. As a result, Felker can’t help but sound like she’s tripping over herself.
Although she often stays in the lower register, it’s at depth that Felker sometimes loses solidarity. During these moments — they’re never long lasting — her otherwise tight vocal grip loosens slightly, and you can hear the strain.
One shining example of Felker’s lower-register crooning succeeding is “Let’s Fight,” a throbbing, poppy call-to-arms with the rather redundant opening lines: “They’ll never take us alive, take us alive / As long as we live, we will survive.” Coincidentally, this is also the album’s catchiest offering and the only one I found myself humming long after finishing the album.
Despite the mostly excellent singing, I think The Fervor would be well served by strengthening the instrumental presence a bit for their next album. Many of the album’s tracks are slower, wistful numbers that can sometimes feel too lethargic and keys-heavy.
Listening, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the album wouldn’t have been more solid with a heavier guitar- and drum-heavy presence. The more energetic tracks like “Let’s Fight,” and “Brushfire,” which are far outnumbered by the sleepy piano ballads.
While it might be unfair to say a band should aim to be something they’re not necessarily trying to be, those two tracks have a strength and presence that make it clear the band is more than capable of shifting focus. That said, “Bleeder” isn’t bad by any stretch, but it could use a little reorienting.
E-mail Casey Phillips at email@example.com