FingerlessLife, Death & Prizes

- The unhappy child on the cover of Life, Death & Prizes, the new album from local three-piece Fingerless, certainly reflects the emotional turmoil we all go through, from infancy to our final moments. Yet, as the band clearly displays, there’s a richer web of emotion and experience that helps us enjoy moments of respite - and even transcendence.

It all comes together over these surprisingly versatile forty minutes. While song titles don’t get much more direct than album opener You Are Going To Die, by starting the record with such a stark reminder, Fingerless go on to show us that a heck of a lot can happen before we exit the Earth. Even that song isn’t all doom and gloom, buoyed by a pretty folk-ish melody drizzled with picked guitar, analogue synth sounds, lovely sighing vocals and a tinge of Middle Eastern mystery.

The record changes its approach completely in the next song Truth, a fuzzed up psychedelic trudge with a memorable stoner riff, slightly noir-ish twangy verses and a satisfyingly majestic chorus. Scarborough starts out all Ryuichi Sakamoto with its chiming synth intro before unravelling into a melancholic bluesy ballad. The riffs return in Get My Money Back, this time with a head-down jammy vibe that keeps one’s attention over its six minutes. Perhaps the catchiest track on the album is the quite beautiful Leaf Of Stone, a soothing indie-pop melody given haunting touches, like the backing vocals that hark back to The Beatles’ Blue Jay Way.

There’s chilling vocoder and down-pitched voices in the (perhaps ironically titled?) Sympathetic Love, and yet that rich bed of guitars, keyboards, synths and shuffling drums provide both a weird contrast and a reassuring taste of the familiar. The blend of folk, electronics, psychedelic rock guitar and sweet harmonised vocals in Compare The Feelings is more in the spirit of the earlier track Truth but expands the sound palate somewhat into more complex territory, without sacrificing hooks and memorable refrains.

Final track Tambourine Addict Who Plays The Drugs is as weird and forlorn as its title to begin with, but by now Fingerless have established their way with a soaring chorus, and this one goes into slow-burn Besnard Lakes territory. It’s a great way to end the record, and as forbidding as some of these titles may sound, Life, Death & Prizes is ultimately an uplifting and inventive record with a crisp yet warm production. While death is the inevitable conclusion to life, we can chalk up this lovely record as one of those treasured prizes we experience along the way.

- Matt Thrower.

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