Album Review: Fentanyl Flowers | LiiN
For the record, this is the first review I’m typing on my new M1 Macbook Air which is a dream come true. Now, It’s almost 9 in the morning, Sunday, the sun is already starting to slowly burn Athens while my headphones are blasting a couple of new fire-releases as I enjoy the view from my penthouse veranda. Like the heat wasn’t enough, LiiN’s latest LP ‘Fentanyl Flowers’ is heavily contributing to my sweaty body for its blazing punk-rock-electronica sound has the power to charge, drain and recharge the listener. A sweet fatigue that will have you coming back for more. Once again, pressing PLAY.
‘Sway’ is a super catchy opener, made to grab you and force you to discover what LiiN is all about. The sound produced by Neil Simons and vocalist Mal R instantly reminded me of Gossip. Same punk-rock attitude transmuted into electronica. ‘Sway’ is this rare underground anthem that happens to have all the qualities to skyrocket the London-based duo to the frontline of the mainstream, electro-pop battlefield. Just like ‘Listen Up’ was an omen for Gossip’s 2009 ‘Music for Men’, highly praised by the European audience. A sneaky bass has the starring role here as the gleaming synths and decisive percussion are successfully fulfilling the track’s hit-single purpose. Highly addictive. The following ‘Dirty Lies’ screams ‘summer’ with its breezy ethers and smooth, laid-back performance transferring the listener to the most vibrant turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea under the sun. I can see this beat played by every beach bar of every single Greek island during the summer. The mesmerising bridge connecting the first half of the track to the second is a highlight by itself, transcending, erotic and strong enough to keep us alive for the rest of the album.
The murmuring, vintage synth of ‘A Possible Maybe’ is preparing the ground for something darker, my cup of tea. Echoing snares and Mal R’s almost monotonal performance over minimal, eerie instrumentation make this one a standout, danceable Goth gem to lead Dark Wave playlists. At this point I’m thinking how Mal R’s voice is doing every single mood introduced in this album justice. Even though his vocal hue is undeniably rock, introduced as such in ‘Sway’, it ends up being neutralised and re-coloured in order to support the concept of every track. And that’s remarkable to say the least. Moving on to the groovy ‘Messsix’, we have an intriguing, almost experimental disco anthem for the few. Not the most memorable piece but still noteworthy for its subtle, mystical soundscapes, repetitive character and psychedelic-flavoured performance. Enough to justify the ‘kaleidoscopic’ label given in the band’s Soundcloud page. The vocals of ‘Messsix’ brought me back to the much loved ‘Call of the Wild’ by Sandor Gavin, taken from his 2021’s Primeval, reviewed by the Sanctum at the time. And then we have romantic, nostalgic vibes taking epic, Sci-Fi forms and vice versa in ‘Exposed’, an old-school electronic ballad about heartbreak.
The climaxing chorus I’ll stand and fall in this cinquendea successfully expresses the grand pain that only love can bring with Mal R accepting the stabbings, honouring his vulnerability and human powerlessness against love’s turbulence. The lyricism of the following ‘Mags’ will have you wondering about the track’s meaning while the magical instrumental will take you to an esoteric, sad place despite the underlying playfulness. There’s something pure and adolescent in here, and if one thing is clear, it’s the sense of separation and most possibly love from distance, literally or metaphorically. I get the morning, you get the evening, I’m in the Autumn, you’re in the Winter. One could even translate it as the story of a divorced couple sharing the love and time of their child. With ‘one’ being me as the actual paradigm of such a child. On the less introspective side, the chill, exotic ‘Leo’ took me to La Roux’s sound in 2014’s ‘Trouble In Paradise’, specifically ‘Paradise is You’ or ‘The Feeling’ for some reason. The arpeggios give off a sense of longing with Mal R singing I've been feeling kinda wired Oh, I don't know where to go completing this mood favourably. ‘Leo’ is a slow-burner, a soft power on its own, hidden between energetic dance-floor jams and electronic ballads, ready to be discovered.
Not far from the end of this journey, the ethereal ‘Cheetahre’ acts as a long interlude with reverberating vocals and heavenly synths that make for another ode to the summer. There’s something bittersweet in there, like the end of vacation or parting from a relationship born during in summer, destined to fade by the end of August. From this perspective, ‘Trigger’ is expanding this theme through an emotional performance over an abstract, hypnotic musical space: How time, it gets, it runs away from us. And we, yes we, there's nothing of us now. The track is bound to touch you whether you like it or not, for its unarmed sentiment comes after a series of strong beats and upbeat melodies making the contrast impossible to not hit your inner world. ‘Trigger’ is substantive and shines through its deliberate simplicity. The unsettling opening seconds of ‘Pike Creek’ are turning into comfort as bright synths and slow-paced percussion appear in a divine space of tranquility, putting the listener into a trance. You could say that LiiN is putting its fingertips on Shoegaze territories for the first time and even though this ‘experiment’ stands out, at least in my ears, it does not spoil the LP’s cohesiveness whatsoever. Talking about experiments, the closing ‘The Other Side’ is a strange mix of electronic beats, organic flutes and a somewhat rock performance that sounds a bit hard to swallow, especially after being fed with a number of pop-driven pieces. The tribal approach sounds wondrous and unique, however the multi-styled outcome leaves me with mixed feelings. POV: ‘Pike Creek’ is an ideal closure with ‘The Other Side’ making the perfect Bonus Track to showcase another side of LiiN.
In the dynamic Fentanyl Flowers LiiN explores a variety of moods, built on Mal R’s distinctive -yet fluid- voice and Simon’s solid electro-pop production. The listener is continuously given something new yet the same so the album has no holes, no fillers but stays engrossing and consistent throughout the journey. With no intention of playing down any of the album’s tracks, I need to state that ‘Sway’ is a real head turner. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it explode in Europe under the right circumstances, and hopefully offer LiiN the spotlight and career they deserve. Just like the aforementioned Gossip. And the Sanctum will be honoured to have covered the London-based duo before that happens! Cheers!
Enjoy Fentanyl Flowers here: