On their sophomore release, the Freelance Whales return with a tighter, more confident update on the organic blend of acoustic chamber pop embellished with electronics that marked their popular debut Weathervanes. The quintet still has the quirky sound of a group busking in New York City subways, with echoing arrangements and amicable group interplay. Frontman Judah Dadone continues to lead the charge with his airy tenor, which slips often and easily into an ethereal falsetto. But this time around, synthesizers sit more comfortably among the banjos and mandolins, creating a soft-edged, panoramic world that feels as homespun as it does modern.
Themes of travel, nature and relationships sweetly intertwine throughout: The lead track “Aeolus” drifts in on a wave of synth and plucked strings, enveloping the listener while building a melancholy tale of mythical characters that ruled the winds. “Land Features,” builds from a humble banjo arpeggio into a gloriously full-blown, near-orchestral climax, punched up with a horn section. The Freelance Whales world is a dreamy one, but it is not without moments of introspection: on “Dig Into Waves,” Dadone plans to both “dig into the waves” as well as “dig into myself.” “Emergence Exit” is a fitting finale, a lilting balance of lullaby and sing-along, guiding us safely home.