THE WORLD IS WAITING Moura, Connell, and Gould.
I never imagined Fairhaven's arena-sized piano-pop rock sound could get any more "mature and polished" than the swooning anthems on their 2010 debut Origins, but that's how Fairhaven lead singer Alan Connell described the new album, Plan A, when he sent a copy my way a few weeks back. He wasn't kidding.
Fans of the Fray, Kings of Leon, and Coldplay should be lining up for the Plan A release party at the Met, as Connell has an undeniable gift when it comes to writing achy-breaky anthems. The Rock Hunt judges (myself included) just about got booed out of Lupo's when Fairhaven won in 2009, but Connell remains confident about the band's sound. In fact, when asked if Fairhaven is out to conquer any particular demographic, he replied with a patent-pending genre of its own: "We call it 'EpPock', or Epic Pop Rock, a very diverse sound that appeals to all ages," he told me.
When I wrote about the band around the time of the release of Origins, I was almost caught off-guard by the specific timeline and career trajectory they had mapped out (full-time management and national booking agent, label offers, etc.), particularly considering they were all barely in their 20s. But their debut tracks —"Singularity," "On a Chase," "Can't Let Go," and "The World Is Ours" — put the band's knack for piano-powered hooks and songwriting on full display. Following the Rock Hunt victory and album, Fairhaven (with added percussionist/guitarist Brian Moura) won over crowds throughout 2010 while opening for acts like Zox, Guster, Neon Trees, and even the Doobie Brothers last year in Newport.
With the new album comes a change in personnel, as former bassist Nick Pagano and drummer Jared Gould (brother of pianist Trevor) left the band to "explore other career opportunities," according to Connell. The trio utilized one of the fan-pledge donation sites and landed enough money to record the album out in Cali with producer Jeff Watson, a founding member of Night Ranger ("Sister Christian" is exactly in Fairhaven's wheelhouse), who turned out to be an ideal partner. Plan A follows the Fairhaven formula of quiet-to-soaring love songs, with big swaths of piano and guitar swaying across the album.
The KoL-inspired openers "The World Is Waiting" and "Fear" rock out harder than just about anything on the debut, a new strength developed through their live work. "On record they lean toward the Coldplay vibe, but onstage they can loosen up and rock their material a bit harder," noted WBRU program director Wendell Clough. Connell's vocal harmonies through on the catchy cuts "Symmetry (Crazy For You)" and "Same As Then," while the latter half settles down with the mellower numbers "Faith and Desire" and "Where You Are." Admittedly, Fairhaven's sound is about the polar opposite of the unpolished indie-rock noise of the 1990s I still obsess over, but there's no denying the talent and confidence of Connell and his mates. Plan A is a solid sophomore effort and everything one would expect from Fairhaven, and I wouldn't be surprised if "Fear" attracts plenty of attention this summer.
The band recently hired a national management group and plan to coordinate a US tour later this year. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Plan A starting this weekend.
FAIRHAVEN + KINGSTON 530 + THE CRINGE + LAST ONE OUT | Friday, May 25 @ 8:30 pm | The Met, 1005 Main St, Pawtucket | $12, all ages | 401.729.1005 | fairhavenband.com