REVIEW: Prawn – ‘Kingfisher’

'Kingfisher' is available now via Topshelf Records.

Prawn - 'Kingfisher'

Prawn have often hinted at an interest in the sea: from their crustacean band name to their ‘Ships’ EP, the group have included references to all things marine related throughout their career.  The New Jersey quintet continue this trend on their latest album, ‘Kingfisher’.

“Scud Running” opens the album with hi-hat hits before talks of breaking fishing lines and slashing sails echo over the swaggering indie rock that Prawn is known for.  Often lumped into the emo scene, Prawn delivers a blend of American Football style post-rock (note the recurring trumpet) and Tigers Jaw level energy.  On their second full-length, the guys maintain a lot of their sound and continue to deliver saddened lyrics that lead into huge reverb-soaked walls of guitar, but they cleaned up a little around the edges.  The vocals tend more towards a tender whisper than a hoarse scream, but the massive instrumental buildups do plenty to make up for this shift in energy.

The more shocking change on ‘Kingfisher’ comes in the form of uplifting lyrics.  It’s pretty clear that Prawn’s inspiration isn’t always the happiest, but some songs find the band looking at things optimistically.  Despite lyrical references to problems with sails and breaking the surface, “Glass, Irony” calls to “keep swimming” repeatedly through the chorus.  Though atypical for Prawn, they pull it off well; “Glass, Irony” is one of the catchiest songs the group has written and it just about demands to be sung a long with.

If you’re a fan of the somber side of things, don’t worry, Prawn still has you covered.  ‘Kingfisher’ doesn’t forget to self-deprecate, and another stand out track, “First As Tragedy, Second As Farce”, informs us that “if the gods are fair, then I am fucked.”  It doesn’t get much darker than that.

The conflict between positive and negative thoughts contributes to an air of maturity on ‘Kingfisher’.  Prawn wasn’t exactly a goofy band to begin with, but the band’s latest album showcases more complex views, increased dynamics, and recurring themes.  The move towards gentler vocal parts allowed for even softer dynamics which only greaten the weight of the climaxes.  At times the softer dynamics can seem to take away from the energy, but the lyrics are given more time to shine over the instruments as a result.  ‘Kingfisher’ returns to sea and sailing references throughout, and the ability to focus more on the lyrics allows listeners to notice the repeated themes.

Before returning to the hi-hat hits that began the album, “Halcyon Days” delivers its closing line “we keep fighting waves,” which not only lands in a middle ground between the optimistic and pessimistic, but references the album title.  A Halcyon is a kingfisher from Greek mythology that is said to have fought waves to lay its eggs, until the gods granted the birds a week of storm free days, known as the halcyon days.  Though Prawn probably isn’t describing the myth on ‘Kingfisher’, the general themes from the tale are present throughout the album.

Prawn’s latest delivers a mix of delicate and crushing, with a healthy dose of post-rock influenced indie rock in between.  The stand out moments are exceptional, but some points get lost in the buildups.  Some songs might not be quite as strong, but when seen as a whole ‘Kingfisher’ stands as a coherent, focused album.