Arrah and the Ferns may have sweetness and light in abundance, but the undercurrent of frank lust in their new album is both new and old hat for these folk rockers. Since their last offering, they’ve adopted growing pains as a lyrical source, to varying effects. While the album relies heavily on much of the same wistfully-ornamented indie delicacy, there’s simultaneously an explicit element, and a successful one at that. Romance isn’t dead on Make Your Mind, it’s just got a mouth on it.
The woozy, low guitars at the beginning of album are one of many instrumental stunners, which we’ve long known to be a touchstone for the Ferns. There is some spectacular guitar and drum work on the album, but for most part, the music and the vocals go head to head in friendly tandem - never trying to outdo one another.
Arrah Fisher’s honeyed vocals push through the knot of winding guitars on the second track, “Go Back,” inciting her band to back her up when she half-purrs, half-belts “I see the way your body moves me - but you don’t have to touch me.”
“Triangle” is a list of questions, an effecting device used by Fisher to protest the coming of a different stage of adulthood - one in which commitment is inevitable and freedom to do as she wants a relic of immaturity. “I wanna meet the man on the other side,” she murmurs, seeing her free-spirited inclinations in danger, and then, with a bravado outburst, demands to know “Why do I have to grow up and be a married schmuck - when all I want to do is fuck...fuck...fuck...fuck...fuck!” The unbridled sexuality is startling, but when you think about it, the turbulence is a perfect underlining for sweet-sounding music about growing up and moving on.
The band then counters that song’s thinly-veiled hedonism with the role-reversing “Hang Up,” whose slow-dance 50s rock balladry finds Fisher imploring her lover to throw himself wholeheartedly into a new life. “This is where I hang up, start to pack my stuff up. I will come to you this time...I don’t want to have you on the side. I just want to have a normal time, have a normal life.” Is she embroiled in an affair? Is she coaxing him out of another relationship? Maybe, but it would seem heartless to resist her sincerity.
Make Your Mind has a welcomed, bouncing energy that picks the album up from its wispy, low-tempo tone halfway through. There’s a uniformity of pace, with most songs choosing a leisurely amble over an all-out rush, but the variance of tone and instrumentation saves the album from tedium, and adds up to an invigorating (and possibly final) effort from Arrah and the Ferns. - Alyssa Greenberg