HalfNoise – ‘Natural Disguise’

By Catie

Inspired by classic rock of the 60s and 70s – fused with elements of synth pop and surf rock – ‘Natural Disguise’ is the latest creation of Paramore’s Zac Farro as part of his side project, HalfNoise. Whilst some cross-genre ventures can become quite niche, ‘Natural Disguise’ finds a versatile balance. Groovy enough for a party playlist, mellow enough for a soak in the bathtub, and upbeat enough to add a hop, skip, and a jump to a muddy Sunday morning jog.

The album begins with two shorter tracks, ‘Woodstock Snap’ and ‘Who Could You Be’, both with infectiously groovy melodies and catchy choruses. The latter was the first single released from the album, followed by ‘Boogie Juice’ and the title track ‘Natural Disguise’. ‘Know It’s Her’ provides 45 seconds of intimacy, a short ode to romance that leaves the listener craving more. This is somewhat quenched by the later track ‘Beautiful Someone’ and its gorgeously delicate guitar lead, contrasted against the peppier ‘Get Gone’. ‘The Groove Is Divine’ should have been nearer the beginning as it paints a picture of what Farro is thinking, or wanting listeners to think, throughout the 13 tracks: “It’s pretty funky, you know? It’s pretty fantastic, too, to be so deep inside the rhythm. You can bring other people in the rhythm with you and just have a lot of fun. It’s like a big party, you know? Just bouncing around to the groove…”

‘Natural Disguise’ is certainly a very easy and enjoyable listen, but is potentially lacking a little in lyrical substance. Farro’s earlier release, Paramore’s 2017 album ‘After Laughter’, offers a similar pink-hued and poppy sound, but is backed up with more cutting lyrics that explore grittier themes – like vocalist Hayley Williams’ battle with mental health. It’s unfair to directly compare the two, however; Paramore is a very different entity and has the weight of fellow musicians, whereas HalfNoise is written and produced entirely by Farro. This freedom seems to have taken him down a trippier path, led by the instrumentals and the creation of musical ambience, rather than using words to convey any particular message.

If thrift stores and vintage are your thing, this undeniably ‘hipster’ album – with an aesthetic that’s frequently likened to a Wes Anderson movie – is for you. But if dusty records and fuzzy, distorted sounds leave a sour taste in your mouth, maybe give ‘Natural Disguise’ a wide berth.

CATIE ALLWRIGHT

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