If you know Beirut and pioneering member Zach Condon's talent of mixing Balkan folk songs with Western pop music via cavernous vocals, you'll welcome Tu Fawning. Their music is less babushka-swathed oma and more coffeehouse Francophile, but the sound clutches you. Their combination of heartfelt lyrics with reverberating piano is particularly clinging.
The brainchild of Joe Haege and Corrina Repp, Tu Fawning generated naturally from collaboration between the two on their individual projects. While fusing their talents on both Repp's The Absent and the Distant and Haege's project 31Knots on an EP, as well as full-length The Days and Nights of Everything Everywhere, the two laid the real foundation and enlisted fellow Portland, Ore., music scene veterans Toussaint Perrault and Lisa Reitz for horns/guitar and piano/violin, respectively.
After an EP, Secession, the foursome evolved and recorded their first full-length album. Beginning with "Multiply a House," Tu Fawning's Hearts on Hold opens with a steady drum and trumpet, paired with a chanting hymn of ghostly female voices. The haunting repetition in Repp's robust voice creates a siren song of hope and despair.
"I Know You Now" lays a circus-music accordion base below a broken line of vocals. "I only want one thing / to be myself again," states the song. It lapses into a chorus of "I know you now / I know you now / I know you now / and I won't forget you." It's a frightening chant that pairs perfectly with their music video, which is replete with reflections, weapons and an appearance by the uber creepy little girl twins straight out of The Shining.
Hearts on Hold sounds like a break between the self and the outside world. The whole album is like an Edgar Allan Poe story with the darkness and despair of Romanticism, centered on the loss of love. The production feels like a Victorian-era invention mastered with 21st century equipment.
In "Mouths of Young" Repp implores, "Don't let a man be your sad story," and questions, "How does a song bird sing for the world?" Their music seems to question the very idea of performance.