Review by Izzy Petraglia
Zac Farro is no stranger to the music scene. When he’s not cementing his place as one of the best modern-day alt-rock drummers in Paramore, he takes center stage as the frontman for his musical side project, halfnoise. Farro formed halfnoise in 2010 and has released his fifth studio album, City Talk, which is guaranteed to be the talk of the town.
Drawing inspiration from genres such as 60s French-pop, jazz, American-funk, and Japanese city-pop, City Talk elicits the feeling of walking through a metropolitan city—feeling like you’re on top of the world. Living and working in Los Angeles acted as a heavy inspiration for Farro, which added a warm sense of dreaminess to the album. It is the perfect listen for when you’re driving with your windows down and the volume up.
The opening track, “Love & Affection,” is the ideal introduction to what listeners can expect for the rest of the album, especially in terms of production. The album focuses on production rather than storytelling elements, and in this track there are components that you will recognize throughout the entire listen (particularly with the presence of various wind instruments).
The first two singles off the record, “Baby” and “Cool Cat,” feel reminiscent of earlier halfnoise work, specifically from the albums Sudden Feeling and Natural Disguise. The groovy, psychedelic synth-pop elements in “Cool Cat” never fail to make me want to get up and dance. When the song comes on while I’m on a walk, I feel like Tobey Maguire dancing on the street in Spider-Man 3. “Baby” is the perfect feel-good track. I was lucky enough to see Farro perform it three separate times prior to the album’s release—twice at Paramore shows and once at his sold-out halfnoise show at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. Each time, it was a crowd-pleaser.
What I love about this album is the way each track falls seamlessly into the next, most notably with the musical interludes from “Thank You Hollywood” and “Coconut Island.” Some of my personal favorites on this album are “The Dove Has Flown” and “Only You,” with "Only You” sticking out both in its lyrics and production. When I focus on the instrumentals of this song alone, I feel a sense of peace, relief, and whimsy. However, when I direct my attention to the lyrics, it depicts the feelings of anxiety and unsteadiness when you are without the one who puts you at ease, especially in the opening verse. I love when a song has lyrics that contrast with its production; it makes it that much more interesting.
As an avid listener of halfnoise, City Talk remains true to the token halfnoise sound that fans know and love, but has also introduced listeners to a fresh approach from its various inspirations. It is not often that you see an artist execute the fusion of genres such as Japanese city-pop and American funk, but Farro has done it with ease. Next time you go on a late-night drive, wherever you are—a metropolitan city or a small town—turn this record on and fall in love with all that City Talk has to offer.