Agnes Manners – Fantasia Famish
Released: September 18th, 2020
Matthew Gravolin | Vocals and Guitar
Lachlan Monty | Guitar
Alexander Trails | Drums
CJ James | Bass and Vocals
Now and then an album comes along that stops you in your tracks and makes a meal of you emotionally. Fantasia Famish is the debut album from Matthew Gravolin’s (of former Hellion’s fame) new moniker Agnes Manners, and it does just that. Honestly, it astounded me, and I was intimidated to start writing this review, for a while all that came to mind was an Owen Wilson “wow”. Words eventually did come, so let’s take a look at this vulnerable, emotional epic of an album.
‘Evergreen’ is first up, and it bursts with positivity and brightness. Gravolin says that the song is about “surrendering to love and letting it change you” and that it ended up with a “flower-child Americana feel” and this is definitely on point. This song sounds like a spring day with warm guitar, piano, bird tweets and a funky bassline from CJ James. Dream State’s CJ Gilpin joins Gravolin for ‘As Long As You’re Mine’, another gorgeous love song. This song has a funky electric drum beat, strings and sexy saxophone (my fave!). It has a chilled Sunday afternoon feel until it builds up to Gilpin joining. Her voice is, of course, fantastic and she adds an excellent edge to this otherwise chilled, smooth song.
After the initial love songs, the album and mood take a turn with ‘Sincerity in Retrograde’. We enter into a wild Sgt. Pepper’s, almost six-minute epic that is a critical analysis of modern society. This song is a ride; there are many tempo changes, lots of instruments and lots of very poignant lyrics. One such line is “We’re bleeding cash on boujee shit, this white upper-middle entitlement is a struggle beyond our wildest dreams”. There’s a yelled heavier part, a waltz and a laugh track- I said the song had everything!
If I am honest, at first this song seemed a bit self-indulgent, but it appears that Gravolin is having a dig at himself as well and commenting on his unhappiness in life, so it’s ironic self-indulgence? He talks about being able to write and play music, but it’s not enough to be happy and says “lighten up you morbid fuck, or nothings going to be good enough” so it seems that he is included in the criticism of society.
‘Brilliant Blue’ starts by talking about not wanting to be in the “boys club”, and it has mostly a sad, quiet fee with a few eruptions of sound. The sudden death of Gravolin’s father inspired him to put his Agnes Manners sound out into the world, and the song talks about this death. The second half of the song has feelings of guilt about not being there when he died and not answering his calls.
‘Lime Light’ is a sweet minute-long live recording of just Gravolin and his acoustic guitar but then ‘Spiced Plum and Cherry’ comes along, and shit really changes. We go from lovely acoustic to spooky, ominous, minor chords. This song is another ride; it’s got a tango feel, an orchestra, a choir and then breaks out into electric guitars and pounding drums. It’s a different but great song and sounds like something you would find on a The Used album these days. This album features a few guests, and ‘Sydney’ features the incredibly familiar rawness of Trophy Eyes frontman John Floreani’s vocals. This song starts with a great lyric “Here’s to the patron saint of rum and jumped cocaine”. The only criticism of this song is that it is too short at just shy of two minutes- we want more!
CJ Gilpin comes back for more guest vocals on ‘Forest Swing’ which is another change in feel. Gravolin starts the song off with spoken verse, and it builds to a full chorus. This song sounds positive and uplifting but there is definitely a feeling of anger and strength in there as well. That is one thing that Gravolin does so well on this album; the songs seem to be one thing but are actually another, like sad lyrics with really lovely chords. There’s nothing better than that sort of juxtaposition. ‘Forest Swing’ will give you chills and make you feel like taking on the shitty shit in your life.
The last song I will mention is ‘The Old Man And The Sea’, another six-minute epic. This song is another beautiful one, but it will likely leave a heavy feeling afterwards. Not necessarily in a bad way but just in a profound way. You might not like feeling sad after a song, but I do, I love songs that make me feel something even if it’s a bit heavy and down. This song is nostalgic, and there’s a feeling of sad reminiscing. The end of it is- wow, the lyrics and story it tells! I don’t want to give any more away; please have a listen and tell me what you think.
This album is huge, so much happens in a relatively short amount of time, even though it has a couple of lengthy songs, the whole album is over in about 40 minutes. It will make you feel so many emotions and will challenge thinking. It’s got everything you could need really! In the fashion of being vulnerable, I have mentioned a few times in reviews lately, that my mental health is not the best it could be at the moment. These songs were such a depression-cure, even though they were emotional songs, my numb, sad heart loved finally feeling something (I am definitely fine, don’t worry!)
Agnes Manners – Fantasia Famish tracklisting
2. As Long As You’re Mine
3. Sincerity In Retrograde
4. Brilliant Blue
5. Lime Light
6. Spiced Plum And Cherry
8. The Young Man And The Seed
9. Forest Swing
11. The Old Man And The Sea
12. Mangosteen Foothills