Revisiting How To: Friend, Love, Freefall
Rainbow Kitten Surprise – How To: Friend, Love, Freefall – Elektra
North Carolina-based festival favorites mix exuberant indie pop and earnest folk-rock. Their sophomore effort is full of gorgeous achingly bittersweet vocals perpetually swaying between comforting and devastating. How To: Friend, Love, Freefall epitomizes the realizations that come with fading youth. Their airtight composition allows them to sound freewheeling and spontaneous.
Just as the album’s title suggests, the band explores the subjects of friendship, love, and letting go all in the context of the modern age. The album returns to the theme that it is actually OK not to have it all figured out. The group is made up of young dudes, so it all sounds incredibly earnest. It sounds as if they’re working through things that continue to haunt them. This music is reassuring and consoling, at least for me. Such extremely introspective music is somehow simultaneously good for either a day drive by your lonesome, or hanging out with others. It’s easy listening if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics.
No two ways about it, their harmonies are dynamite. They play their chunky jams with a no-time-to-waste confidence. That calls for either stretching the words to their un-natural ends, or rapping them. Each song is approached with intention. Let’s explore some choice cuts from their 2018 album.
At the beginning of this song, the narrator seems to have reached a point where he sees no other option then to openly invite the Devil in. He expects the Devil to promote self-destructive behavior such as smoking, gambling and drinking, but to his surprise the Devil seems to be way less excessive than he thought.
This is somewhat of a twisted version of the Faust Myth in which the Mephistopheles (a demon or devil-like figure) tries to beguile a devout, hardworking, but somewhat dissatisfied Dr. Faust into embracing a self-destructive lifestyle of sin. Here the narrator seems to be willing to give into the devil, but the devil doesn’t want to play his part.
This dialogue with the devil reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Lord of the Flies. There is something to learn from the darkness, but there is no sense in letting it influence you totally.
The Devil is literally an advocate for hard truth here:
“Called to the Devil and the Devil said ‘Hey! Why you been calling this late? It's like 2 A.M. and the bars all close at 10 in hell, that's a rule I made. Anyway, you say you're too busy saving everybody else to save yourself And you don't want no help, oh well That's the story to tell
You could let it all go, you could let it all go It's Called: Freefall’”
This song finds a user communicating a passionate yearning for their fix. Multiple times, the artist refers to “sugar city” which is likely a reference to crack cocaine, which looks very similar to sugar cubes. The artist also talks about baking and cooking, which is likely referring to boiling powder cocaine to turn it into crack cocaine.
The first verse is rapped, which makes the yearning, extensively sung and elongated chorus stand out.
This song is one of the strongest both lyrically and melodically. I believe that they are writing about addiction. Especially in Appalachian regions, the over prescription of painkillers has heavily contributed to an addiction epidemic. Often with users graduating to stronger drugs (heroin) to satisfy their habit. Users will likely wake up in the morning and look for a fix, but opiates are very easy to overdose with – either intentional or accidental. Thus the line, “try not to kill yourself today”. Also, there are two strong biblical allusions:
“I believe Canaan ain't far for the souls who barter their pain for sweet relief
[//break//] My queen won't feed on milk and honey[…]”
Canaan is also called the promised land, and is referenced commonly in the bible. This is saying that Canaan, the promised land, is easiest to get to for the people who are willing to barter or trade their life– which they deem as burdensome and painful– for death, as it is the only way they believe they can obtain peace.
In the Torah, and subsequently the Old Testament of the Bible, God conditionally promises Abraham “a land flowing with milk and honey,” referring to all that He provides for mankind, which goes on to become representative of humanity’s need for spirituality and communion with God.
If someone spurns “milk and honey,” it’s possible that they could be said to reject the promised land and God, or even religion itself, however in reference to the prior line, which states that the promised land is easiest to reach for those willing to trade their lives for relief, it’s likely that “my queen won’t feed on milk and honey” because she will never reach Canaan, as she refuses to stop living and fighting.
“Speak momma, ‘round here the quiet die young.”
The people who are reserved about their feelings tend to be the ones that are hurting the most. Keeping all those feeling bottled up can make someone feel isolated to the point where the only solution they can see is death.
The lyrics on this number draw their strength from the dichotomy presented in the second stanza:
“You stay needy, I stay friendless You stay pristine, I stay pretentious We'd get married but it's too expensive Let's call the whole thing off, please”
The song listens more like a linear poem than a song. There is no chorus, and seldom is repeated. That and the lo-fi filter on the vocals make for a back-of the dressing room, need-to-get-off-the-chest vibe.
As a whole, How To: Friend, Love, Freefall discusses serious topics through a youthful lens. In addition to hip-hop, pop, and folk, the group wrangles elements of rock, soul, and jazz to varying degrees, in balanced arrangements that value rhythm and harmony. It all goes by at a brisk pace, thanks in part to the intense vocal style, but also because only two of the 13 tracks cross the four-minute mark, effectively making an impression without overstaying their welcome.