Why Listening To Prawn’s New Record, “Kingfisher”, Is Absolutely Fucking Necessary
It seems like genre-izing a band is the easiest thing someone can do today to really drive the point home that a band is in a certain corner, part of a certain “movement”, or just flat-out explain to someone what they sound like. But, there are times when that same bastardizing of a band’s sound can take place by simply placing it into a genre it doesn’t really belong. So, when people mention that New Jersey’s Prawn are leading an “emo revival” or have “post-rock tendencies”, it can take away a lot from what the band is doing. One must first listen to the music and then decide for themselves what genre it’s in - if you absolutely have to know. But, more often than not, when listening to the actual record, you’ll get so engrossed in it that it won’t matter what genre you think it belongs to or what tendencies it has. Enter Kingfisher.
With that almost mandatory introduction out of the way, let me first start by saying that the long wait for a true LP follow-up to Prawn’s fantastic debut LP - 2011’s You Can Just Leave It All - has been a tough one. They have released a few splits and EPs - including the near-flawless Ships EP from 2012 - and have also toured like crazy, but we have still not had a true sophomore LP. But, thankfully, we finally do.
The first thing you’ll notice from Kingfisher is the stellar production, especially if you are a fan of the late (but great) Moving Mountains. As with Ships, Greg Dunn (of Moving Mountains) has once again helmed the engineering of the record, as well as the mastering and mixing. What’s different this time around is the band’s self-confessed excitement for actually having recorded the record with Dunn at his studio. This has made an enormous impact on the record, and not just for its aural qualities. The songs are tighter than anything Prawn has ever done before. They are more crisp, and showcase the band better than ever. Even drummer Jamie Houghton comes through loud and clear in a fantastic mix that shows how talented he really is - something that typically only comes out through their live shows.
And what about those “post-rock tendencies”? Well, they’re clearly still there, but they sound more natural and ethereal, precisely as they should. But, Kingfisher is not about the mixing or mastering, nor is it about any sort of overall idea. It is about the words and melodies of Kingfisher.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is so much happening on Kingfisher that if you don’t have a pair of headphones to salivate it over with, then you’re going to be missing out on quite a bit. But, with that being said, for the first time in their long life, Prawn - and subsequently, vocalist Tony Clark - are finally a fully brought together band. The melodies and vocals on Kingfisher are top notch. The lyrics are as well-written as some of EEIWALE’s tracks, which are arguably some of the best in the business. Tony Clark has gone above and beyond for Kingfisher. There are so many memorable moments on the record, and there are so many deeply-rooted emotional moments. In Clark’s self-confessed “heaviest song, lyrically”, “Prolonged Exposure” also happens to be one of Prawn’s very best tracks so far in their catalog. From the sweeping song structure, haunting deadpan opening vocals, to the actual moment that the rhythm section comes in, “Prolonged Exposure” is a moving experience, just three tracks into Kingfisher.
Almost every song has an extremely infectious and tasty lyric line to remember, and wake up in the morning singing along with. The guitar parts are a smaller piece of the well-oiled machine that is Kingfisher. Guitarist Kyle Burns - who you may remember as the old bass player during the Ships era - has been able to complement Clark’s incredible songwriting ability in a way that cannot be described without using hyperbole. Obviously, Burns is full of talent, as he has proven his bass playing prowess and has even been said to be a “hell of a drum player” in the past, too. But, this is finally a cohesive unit. Prawn has finally stepped into the major leagues and gotten their first major league hit during their first at-bat. And, you know what? It was an inside-the-park homerun. For the Ships, You Can Just Leave It All, and splits that have come before, those were just games in the minor league system - think A, AA, and AAA - and it’s up to Kingfisher to be the September call-up to the big leagues. Luckily, and thankfully, Kingfisher is in all respects an inside-the-park home run.
Where does Prawn go to end the near-forty-minute journey that is Kingfisher? Back to the “Halcyon Days”. With the Kingfisher cover art and slight nods to different bird and aviation mechanics (“Scud Running”), it is clear that there is a theme that is slightly hard to decode at work here. With Halcyon working overtime as both a nod to the Kingfisher bird genus Halcyon and the idea that “Halcyon Days” were a time that was happy and peaceful. This subtle nod and titling move is a fantastic way to introduce one of the best songs on the record.
Ending a record on a high - or, at times, low - note is critical for a release of this caliber these days, and fantastically, Prawn comes through in the clutch - like a pinch hit HR - with one of the best album closers since The Hotelier’s haunting ”Dendron” from their fantastic Home Like Noplace Is There. Clark croons “I keep fighting waves” over and over, harkening back to the nautical quality of Prawn’s entire catalog. This haunting, yet uplifting ending is something I won’t forget for quite a while. The very end of the record is jarring in and of itself. Houghton’s standard beat on his closed hi-hat cymbal ends the record, and subsequently opens it up again on the other side during “Scud Running”, lending the idea that Kingfisher is meant for repeat listens. Many repeat listens.
You see, you might not like Kingfisher on the first listen. You might not even agree with any of the stuff I’ve talked about here. And that’s okay because, thankfully, Kingfisher does all the heavy lifting for you - all you have to do is give it the time. It will sink in, and you’ll wake up - just as I did - singing at the top of your lungs, “It’s a long way away.”
Kingfisher is easily one of the most powerful records of the year. It will move you, shake you, and just plain keep you up at night. And for the latter, that’s a very, very good thing.
Listening to Prawn’s new record Kingfisher is absolutely fucking necessary. Go get it, now.