KRANK 165: Felix: Oh Holy Molar (2012)
Lucinda Chua’s voice is sweet, her tone kind, and the music of Felix simple and intimate. But don’t be lulled by her charm: her wit is sharp, her emotions raw, and she will not suffer fools. Take “Hate Song,” which is directed at someone once close to Chua. “No love between us now,” she sings midway through. But here is what she sings before that:
Why is there so much bad stuff inside of you? I blame them for raising you so badly, and the others for betraying you. But you won’t let anyone help you; all you do is drive me to the point where I resent you. This is what you do. Whenever you get drunk, you tell us all how you are the wittiest one and the cleverest one—it’s no fun.
Did I tell you that I hate you? Did I tell you to your face? I didn’t? Well baby I am telling you now. This is what you get when you steal from your friends and you lie about the thieving.
There is a meter and sweet melody in Chua’s phrasing, but as I transcribe her lyrics, they beg not to be written in a poetic form. These are stories, monologues. Taken this way, Chua’s style of singing seems utterly natural—a soft conversational volume, a quick pace full of asides and tangents.
The same was the case on Felix’s debut, You Are the One I Pick (KRANK 139), similarly beguiling and cutting, but at times somewhat wearying due to the unchanging nature of each short song. Oh Holy Molar is a maturation of Felix’s sound, and a much stronger effort. Chua and her partner Chris Summerlin are joined this time around by a third member, Neil Turpin, on drums. His confident playing is a great enhancement of Chua and Summerlin’s core of piano, guitar, and vocals—see “Oh Thee 73” for some inspired intertwining of drums and vocals. The music remains, overall, airy and casual, but Turpin imbues Oh Holy Molar with a more forceful sense of self-esteem. The music is now as kind and cutting as Chua’s words.
Perhaps it’s Turpin’s presence (and welcome backing vocals from Sophie Lester) that also allows Felix to bring more variety to their sound. The dynamic shifts within and between songs hold the attention, and the two-part “Blessing” is a dramatic turn midway through—first piano and strings, followed by Chua and Lester singing in a long, choral-like arrangement. It signals a slight downshift in the pace of the record’s second half, giving the whole of the album an arc that You Are the One I Pick didn’t really have. The content of Chua’s songs of betrayal become more serious. Where “Hate Song” has a biting humor, “Pretty Girls” reveals some true hurt—”Pretty girls should be locked up from those pretty boys… and those pretty things they say that play like a broken record,” she sings in the first verse. The song details the toll of being routinely hit on—seeing through it sometimes, falling for it other times. ”Clever guys always should be careful, and carelessness is something truly awful,” she sings later. One gets the sense that Chua is not merely stamping her foot and shouting Men!—rather, there is a darker experience lurking behind these songs.