I’m sitting in a hotel in Aurora, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. I always get a bit pensive when I travel for business and don’t have Holly with me – something about being alone in a hotel room in a different city with not much to do except work, and think about home. There’s two ways to go with music in a situation like this, I’ve found – either pick something that strikes a totally different mood, or choose something that fits. Tonight I went with something that fits the mood in the form of the Icelandic band Agent Fresco and their 2012 release, A Long Time Listening.
Describing Agent Fresco’s music is challenging. The best thing I can come up with is sort of a hard rock / jazz fusion. The music doesn’t really seem to follow a standard format in that songs go off in some different directions or make major stylistic changes at various points. I suspect that the guys in Agent Fresco make music for the purpose of eliciting an emotional response, and the changes in timing and tempo have that effect on me in a big way. When you add in Arnor Dan Arnarson’s brilliant lyrics and often haunting vocals, you come away feeling the music and entering into a sort of emotional relationship with the band. I know… all that sounds really over the top, but it isn’t often you discover a band that really hits you (at least it doesn’t happen to me very often… which may say more about me than Agent Fresco) and forces you to stop what you’re doing so you can just listen and feel.
We first saw Agent Fresco live at NASA during Iceland Airwaves 2010, and they were completely unexpected. We bought the EP they had out at the time, Lightbulb Universe (most of the songs from the EP are also on A Long Time Listening), and I was surprised by how different the album sounded than the live show had – the album was much more jazzy, while live the band flat out rocked with tons of energy and a frenetic pace. We caught them again a few days later in a much smaller off venue location, and that show was a little less rock, and a little more jazz. We saw them again in 2011, and actually had a chance to meet Arnor briefly the day after Airwaves ended. He was charming and thoughtful, and came across as someone who was primarily concerned with people being able to hear his music, encouraging us to make copies of the CD to send to our friends (which we immediately did; Arnor, you now have two big fans in Minneapolis!).
A Long Time Listening gives you your money’s worth. It’s a long album, with 17 tracks, and a great mix of songs. Picking a favorite is difficult, but if “Eyes of a Cloud Catcher” (video HERE) doesn’t touch you and put a lump in your throat, then nothing will and you should just stick to the blandest pop crap you can find, or give up on listening to music entirely and just watch sitcoms.
Try to sleep,
Try to sleep,
You’re in every single part of me,
I hope that you know
At the other end of the spectrum you have “Tiger Veil”, an intense rocker that the band just kills live.
Agent Fresco is a truly impressive band, one that can not only play both hard and soft, but can even play specific songs either way and have them still sound awesome. If you want your music to have meaning and connect with you emotionally, you owe it to yourself to have a listen. I, for one, can’t wait to see them live again in November.