By virtue of their hometown (San Francisco) and the labels they’ve worked with (In the Red, Captured Tracks, Sacred Bones, and now, Mexican Summer), The Fresh & Onlys are often grouped with shaggy-haired maniacs such as Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. In reality, their gorgeous, glassy-eyed pop is more in line with The Shins, or, to use an era-appropriate comparison for the Nuggets-inclined set, the Zombies. The noisier, feedback-drenched reference points made a little more sense when the band was just getting started, but with each subsequent release, The Fresh & Onlys have refined their tunes, trading lo-fi riffs for jangling strums, garage rhythms for elegant, choral-enhanced accompaniment. What once could’ve served as the soundtrack for a Vice-funded documentary now sounds appropriate for starring placement in a Wes Anderson flick, and we mean that in the best possible sense.
Long Slow Dance feels like a young band discovering their true calling. The title track meditates on finding true love alongside an acceptance that nobody’s perfect. “Presence of Mind” grapples with precisely that, trying to attain it amidst a world of lies and disappointment. Multiple tracks feature a protagonist longing to unshackle himself from foolishness, sometimes over clean, dramatic guitars, other times backed by horn sections seemingly borrowed from an epic Calexico jam. The whole thing feels like a coming-out party for a band that’s been leaning toward its destined path all along. Perhaps the finest distillation of this weight-off-the-shoulders thesis comes in “20 Days and 20 Nights,” when frontman Tim Cohen sings, “Something so heavy in my mind/ I think I wanna try and let it out.” Feels good, doesn’t it?