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Ezra Furman Drops The Harpoons For Solo Debut

By Sarah Cobarrubias in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 3, 2012 6:00PM

2012_04_03_ezrafurman.jpg Vocalist/guitarist Ezra Furman has been taking some adventures lately, musically and otherwise. The former Chicagoan picked up and moved to San Francisco last year, and before he did, he recorded his first solo album, The Year of No Returning.

It’s clear straight from the beginning that something’s different with this album. Aside from the fact that it’s his first LP without his backup band, the Harpoons, it takes advantage of a wider range of instruments (Furman brought in other Chicago musicians to provide instrumentation). Opening track “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” for example, features Furman’s go-to elements—piano, guitar, and his nasal, howling vocals—but he seasons it with baritone sax, clarinet, and jingling bells.

The theme of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a good prelude for the album: slapdash and capricious, changing pace as if slave to mood swings. At one moment, “American Soil” incites revolutions with hysterical vocals, punchy rhythm, and turns of phrase like “if freedom isn’t free, all the bills must just be lost in the mail.” Then the next moment, “Lay in the Sun” brings you low with a slow and steady tempo.

The collection seems confused and distracted at times, but it’s hard to say whether this is the effect of a lack of focus or unhindered expression. Either way, the album retains that anxious charm and clever lyricism that attracted us to him and his Harpoons in the first place. Check it out for yourself: you can download or stream side A of the album for free at Furman’s Bandcamp page, though you’ll have to pay to hear the rest of the album.

Furman is touring the states right now and spreading word of the new album, but he’ll make his way to Chicago to wrap up the tour April 28 with dual performances—one early show and one late show—at Schubas. As with the album, Furman is parting with the Harpoons for this tour. Don’t worry, he says this isn’t the end of the band. But who knows how long they’ll stay together, seeing that he’s starting another band to explore a different variety of rock.

Ezra Furman plays Saturday, April 28 at Schubas, 3159 N Southport, 7 p.m., $12 advance or $14 at the door, all ages
And then again at 10 p.m., $12 advance or $14 at the door, 21+