Farewell Milwaukee – FM (2016)

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A musical acquaintance of mine described Farewell Milwaukee as “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers like.” I think that description does this Minneapolis-based band a disservice. Farewell Milwaukee’s fourth album, FM, has an emotional basis far deeper than any Tom Petty release over the last decade and a half.

Singer-songwriter Ben Lubeck uses the relationship with his daughter as the basis on of the lead off track “Hurt No More.” The song, with its twangy rhythm guitar and hook-laden chorus, kicks off FM in fine form. Producer Jason Orris lets Farewell Milwaukee explore its sonic soundscape, with electric and acoustic guitars and a little harmonica. Breezy and upbeat, yet substantive is the order of the day. Not a note is wasted.

“Figure You Out” has a touch of R&B in its DNA. Lubeck’s vocals are strong and expressive as he tells a quick tale of relationship mystery and angst. The foundation is boosted by a strong Hammond B-3 hook, as Lubeck quickly gets to the point. “‘Till We’re Afraid” shifts the mood. The piano intro and delicate brush work hints of melancholy. The harmonies are equally delicate and touching. “‘Till We’re Afraid” is my favorite track on the album, high praise given the strength of the songwriting on FM.

“Caught in the Abyss” is another standout track. The song pursues a more direct rock route but Ben Lubeck’s lyrics seem effortlessly intertwined with the perky melody. The guitars and harmonies are carefully orchestrated but never over produced, making the song a fun ride.

“Drift” gives you a delicate time signature which incorporates multi-tracked guitars and a soaring chorus. The song gives a vibe which is dark yet aggressive, with an all-too-short tag. “Wait For Love” offers a contrast with a simmering backbeat and yearning lead vocal. Lubeck somehow manages to tell a familiar story about yearning and desire and make it sound fresh. The song hits a nerve made raw by the explosive end chorus.

At 13 tracks, Farewell Milwaukee’s FM almost seems too short. Each song could be stretched just a little further. I guess the hallmark of a fine album is to leave the listener wanting more. Clearly, FM does that.

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