Complex orchestration, dedicated reproduction of vintage styles, and an aesthetic that combines sweet pop with the intricacies of jazz.
While the name of today’s group sounds like it would be more at home on a sign atop a 24-hour gym, the only thing this talented bunch of music makers are lifting are spirits. Fitness Forever was founded in 2006 by Carlos Valderrama “soon after realizing that love is not forever. That’s why, unfortunately, he couldn’t call the band LOVE FOREVER.” You can read a bit about Valderrama’s thoughts after forming the group over at an interview on This Is Pop Music. The Italian flair is strong in this bunch, and after writing songs in English for 15 years, Valderrama “realized it didn’t work because English spoken by an Italian is sort of awkward sounding to people from the USA and England…if not just plain funny because of our Italian accent.”
In 2008, the band ended their relationship with EMI and signed to the amazing sweet pop label Elefant Records, through whom the group released their debut Personal Train (Bandcamp|Amazon|iTunes), which established them as a premier source of orchestrated pop music. With Cosmos, Valderrama and his crew have attempted something even more ambitious – per the album’s liner notes, “none of the microphones or anything they used were from later than 1978″, which gives this album a seriously vintage feel. Check out the “making of” video below then jump down to the review:
The album opens with “Piano Fender Blues”, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think this was a sample that was about to go into some kind of Dilla beat, but you’d be wrong. The first twenty seconds — iconic. Literally, you feel as though you are experiencing something made just about forty-odd years ago. This instrumental track is a bit short at just under two minutes, but the complexities and stellar incorporation of so many instruments makes this dense song one of the best on the album. “Hotel Flamingo” follows, with a fantastic riff that makes you feel like you should be on a boat. Of course, the song’s title references several of the most luxurious resort destinations in the world, so for the tune not to feel a bit like a resort would be almost criminal.
“Il Cane Ciuff” is playful in its structure, instrumentation and material. The bouncing bass, the plucked strings, the whistling — it all comes together in the lightest of this album’s offerings. This feel-good tune is set off by the frantic wanderings of “Le Intenzioni Del Re”, which combines a hurried pace with quirky lyrics; the group cites the influence of Burt Bacharat in the production of this track as well as ”L’amore Annegato”. The somewhat eclectic and unpredictable chord changes in these songs are certainly reminiscent of some of Bacharat’s work, and these two tracks stray furthest from the poppy nature of the rest of the album into the territory of jazz standards.
“Lui” is a seductive nod to the string-backed r&b ballads from the mid seventies. The implementation of a synthesizer gives the track a unique flavor, but the highlights of the track are the fantastic string work and the break from the two minute mark through to the key change. Yes, really! Fitness Forever heads back for another helping of jazz with “Laura”, which is dominated by the quirkily-timed bass line. The overall theme of this album is definitely a shade dimmer than that of the sunshiney Personal Train, but I feel like the group themselves put it best in the interview above when they said that Cosmos was more about sunsets. “Laura” is a great example of that line of thought — the song is only a bit dark in relation to the rest of this album.
The title track and “Disco Quiz” feature elements of experimentation, but because they are solidly grounded in disco, there is little not to love about them. “Cosmos”, is especially likable with its swirling arpeggios that cut in and out, making space for the lyrics. This one makes you want to get up and dance, hands down. The album closes with the lullaby-like “Il Mare”, the most beautiful of these eleven songs.
Fitness Forever is not your everyday pop band. Then again, if you wanted everyday pop, you could just turn on the radio. Complex orchestration, dedicated reproduction of vintage styles, and an aesthetic that combines sweet pop with the intricacies of jazz. These are some seriously groovy and moving tunes. Pick up the album at one of the outlets below, or grab one of a few limited edition “Clear Vinyl” copies (pictured above) from Elefant Records directly.
Camera Obscura, Aventuras de Kirlian, BMX Bandits, La Casa Azul, The School, Family, Momus, Trembling Blue Stars, Papa Topo, Le Mans, StereoTotal, Cooper, The Pastels, Nosoträsh, Spring, Single, My Little Airport, Astrud, Nick Garrie, La Bien Querida, Vainica Doble, Speedmarket Avenue, Carlos Berlanga, TV Personalities, Los Flechazos, Fitness Forever, Juniper Moon, Helen Love, Cola Jet Set…