Brooklyn based trio Flagland is releasing their third full length album, Love Hard, on February 25th on Father Daughter Records. For Love Hard, Flagland drew from a number of ingredients to cook up their own specific and unique musical concoction of panicky rock. Kerry Kalberg (vocals and guitar), Dan Francia (bass and vocals) and Nick Dooley (drums) incorporate punk, 90s fuzz, and grunge rock, each genre coming together to give Flagland an oddly cohesive personality and sound.
When I first heard “Comfortable Life” some weeks ago, I was blown away by the composition. The song breathed life and developed momentum effortlessly. My mistake, however was valuing the music above the lyrics of the song. Flagland stepped it up and dug a little deeper with their lyrics on Love Hard. Their lyrics are so honest and relatable that listening to this album almost feels like having a conversation over a drink with a few close friends (that are seriously fucked up).
Every lyric is a waste of air
When there’s nobody here because there’s nobody there
Your life is in some kind of mess
When you’ve got nothing to say and yet you’re out of breath
I write a song about them and they don’t wanna hear it
There is something about the truth that causes people to fear it
Kalberg, Francia and Dooley definitely do not have a problem talking about their feelings, which is good, because they have a lot of them, most of which involve anger or depression. Lyrics aside, there are a number of standout musical qualities on Love Hard.
“It’s Your Time,” sung by Dan Francia (with Kalberg providing background vocals on the chorus) is definitely a nod to Rivers Cuomo circa 1996. The song is without a doubt the most earnest and optimistic song on the album. Flagland’s rougher edges appear on “Unfinished Business,” a punk-tinged song with urgent drums and commanding guitar strumming. Weighing in at only :48 minutes, “Unfinished Business” is short but it isn’t sweet. Kalberg, Francia and Dooley manage to pack a great deal of rage into this song, making it feel like more of an emotional release than anything else. “Yr GF” is the most straightforward punk song on the album, with a simple tune and two-part vocals built from melodic screams, making it snappy, sweet and infectious. “Shitsucksrightnow” is brims with personality, beginning with a catchy guitar riff and moving from section to section with seamless transitions, ending on a multifaceted instrumental break.
“Mosquito Bite” is one of the more complex compositions on Love Hard. It begins uneasy, giving the sense that it is building up to something, reaching its gripping destination about a minute into the song. At its pinnacle, the track is colored with guitar power chords, eerie lyrics and unpredictable melodies. It finishes with an instrumental swell and bend to showcase the instrumental aptitude of the trio. Likewise, the drums, bass, and guitar on “Swingin” propel the song forward with frightening, almost unrefined intensity.
Flagland have definitively fine-tuned their distinct sound on Love Hard. Kalberg, Francia and Dooley look back to their predecessors while infusing their personality, compositional artistry and lyrical dexterity, therefore solidifying their own unique space within the musical genres that they straddle. Vocals are often on point, guitar solos are compact and composition is refined, yet Flagland stays true to its garage band roots by valuing musical expression above accuracy.
On Friday, January 10th, I had the pleasure of seeing Flagland perform live at Silent Barn. The lineup included Flagland, Porches, My Dad and Gunk.
Kerry Kalberg, Dan Francia and Nick Dooley casually set up their instruments on the dusty stage of this Bushwick DIY venue. They took their time setting everything up perfectly as the room slowly filled up with bearded men and tattooed girls. After a quick costume change (more like disrobing) Kalberg appeared in his stage uniform, nothing but his boxer briefs, and they were on their way.
The band played a relatively straightforward set, infusing it with some older material while mostly showcasing a number of songs from Love Hard. At the end of “High School Love,” Kalberg ripped his glasses off before the gang embarked on their first (but not their last) great instrumental of the night. He followed this with Love Hard standout “Swingin”. After the crowd settled down, Kalberg announced that he was going to play a song about My Little Pony, and broke into “I Need It,” from 2012’s Tireda Fighting. Next came a string of songs from Love Hard: “Straight White Male,” “Unfinished Business,” “It’s Your Time” and “Comfortable Life.” They finished with a track from 2011 debut Danger Music/Party Music.
As always, Kalberg, Francia and Dooley put on a dynamic show that was rife with instrumental solos, intimate vocals, lighthearted banter and, of course, a whole lot of bare chest. Make sure to catch their next show, on January 26th at Shea Stadium.