Canadian Band Fleece Has Found Its Feisty Queer Voice on New Album
When it comes to great opening lines for albums, nothing beats Patti Smith’s “Gloria” on her debut, Horses: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.” That’s iconic and definitive. Only time will tell if the opening line of “All My Money” by the Canadian queer quartet Fleece — “Spent all my money on a guy that I can’t afford…” — comes to define them and their third release, the new Fleece album Stunning and Atrocious. But right now, I can’t shake it out of my head and, to be honest, I don’t want to.
“’Stunning’ and ‘atrocious’ were just my favorite words forever,” Matt Rogers, lead vocalist of Fleece, has said. “When we were on tour in 2018, I was describing everything as either stunning or atrocious. Then this album came along less as a full overarching story, but we were starting to notice how there was this lush side of Fleece and the rock n roll side of Fleece. Half of these songs were kind of more beautiful, ethereal, and half of them were more intense, rock n roll. Jameson (Daniel, new guitarist) once as a joke said why don’t we call it ‘Stunning & Atrocious’ but literally it encapsulated the past four years of our lives, and it also encapsulates a lot of themes in our songs. We wrote them at a time when our lives were incredible but we also all had some awful times in the past couple of years, so overall just a lot of growing. This album is kind of a smorgasbord of stunning and atrocious.”
That dichotomy is more contextual than sonic. After two previous releases and some personnel changes (the addition of Jameson Daniel and guitarist/vocalist/writer Megan Ennenberg around the time of album two, Voyager), the push-and-pull between indie rock and indie pop has settled into an expressive middle ground on this new Fleece album, where these confessional queer songs live, breathe and flourish. And though Rogers has never been coy about his sexuality, he’s never been as forthright as he is here.
They start strong with the aforementioned “All My Money” and end even stronger with a joyous romp through the expediency of mortality, “Losing Time.” In between there’s the debut of Megan Ennenberg’s first Fleece tune, the aching “Bodies Lie”; the wide expanse of the lovers lament “Something Real” (which we dare Orville Peck to cover); and the indie stroll of “Upside Down,” wherein Rogers contemplates the overseen exchange between gay men by observing, for all of us, “If two men just ain’t right, then I’m living in a world that’s upside down.”
“Moments like these,” Rogers has said, “used to bring on feelings of shame and confusion. I guess because I was still feeling weird about being gay. But now I’m comfy in my skin and take moments like these as a little jolt of espresso to keep me chugging along. There’s nothing like the feeling of mutual attraction.”
The effortless ease of Stunning and Atrocious, which has already spawned hits in their native Canada, may bring to Fleece the larger international audience it deserves. Rogers may not have to worry ever again about that guy he can’t afford, though I hope he and his band never stop writing like the hungry, feisty queer kids who’ve finally found their voice and the confidence to take it global.