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Sky Full of Holes

4.3 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Unlike the iconic Ft. Wayne NJ garden store that inspired its name, Fountains of Wayne are still very much open for business. In fact, their new album Sky Full of Holes sounds like a whole new beginning for the band and its powerhouse songwriting duo Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger. Called, ''full-fledged art heroes'' by The Dean of Rock Critics Robert Christgau, FOW continue their reign as pop music masters, while Collingwood and Schlesinger also explore new frontiers within their unique respective songwriting aesthetics. Ranging from high-energy power pop to intimate, acoustic-driven ballads, Sky Full of Holes tracks ''The Summer Place'' and ''Richie And Ruben'' showcase the band's renowned storytelling abilities and flair for creating memorable characters; elsewhere, the album takes a more impressionistic approach, as in the shimmering ''Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart'' and the elegiac ''Cemetery Guns.'' Sky Full of Holes is Fountains' most successful distillation of their musical maxims to date, but it's also a whole hell of a lot of fun.

Review

Wise guys with flashes of empathy: that's Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger, who collaborate in Fountains of Wayne. Since 1996 they have been writing finely observed, neatly rhymed character studies set to sleekly produced pop-rock.

They take their time. ''Sky Full of Holes,'' the fifth studio album by Fountains of Wayne, is their first since 2007, and the songs cut back on smirking. The album title comes from a line imagining how a 21-gun salute leaves a ''sky full of holes'' at a military funeral, in a kindly song called ''Cemetery Guns,'' a march accented by snare-drum rolls.

''Action Hero'' starts out describing a Walter Mitty-like family man on an unglamorous dinner out with the kids at ''a small Vietnamese on East 11th Street,'' and the chiming, heroic music sounds like easy irony. Then it turns out the man is getting bad news from his hospital tests, and his fantasies about ''racing against time'' to save the world turn poignant.

There's comedy too. Perpetually deluded hipster entrepreneurs ''Richie and Ruben'' invest in a boutique called Debris that for some reason can't sell a ripped, stained $1,100 T-shirt. In ''Acela,'' a bored guy riding to Boston realizes his girlfriend isn't meeting him on the train after all: ''All alone on the Acela/Tell me baby where the hell are you?'' There's a happier ending in ''Radio Bar''; after hanging out nightly at a bar where he's ''sinking lower and lower,'' the narrator suddenly meets a girl who asks, ''Why don't we go somewhere?'' That must be why there were peppy horns and strings all along.

Fountains of Wayne's music has its heart in the 1970's of the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Stealers Wheel and Nick Lowe, full of strummed acoustic and electric guitars, repeated octaves on the piano and wordless vocal-harmony choruses. Mr. Collingwood's nasal lead vocals can't help sounding twerpy and a little sarcastic.

But this album warms up to its characters. In ''Hate to See You Like This,'' which holds some echoes of ''Born to Run,'' the singer tries to revitalize a girl who sounds clinically depressed or worse. And even if Mr. Collingwood and Mr. Schlesinger can't resist a couplet as neat as ''Let's get your phone reconnected/Let's get this room disinfected,'' it also sounds as if they care about the people. --Jon Pareles

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. The Summer Place
  2. Richie and Ruben
  3. Acela
  4. Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart
  5. Action
  6. A Dip In the Ocean
  7. Cold Comfort Flowers
  8. A Road Song
  9. Workingman's Hands
  10. Hate To See You Like This
  11. Radio Bar
  12. Firelight Waltz
  13. Cemetary Guns


Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 2, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Yep Roc Records
  • ASIN: B004XD04AQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,753 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: MP3 Music
"Sky Full Of Holes" is the 5th studio record from Fountains of Wayne and clearly one of their best. Named after a now-closed ornament store in NJ, they have a unique power pop sound with vivid and inspiring lyrics. Filled with catchy hooks and sweet melodies, "Sky" shows the growth and evolution of the band since their break through song "Stacy's Mom." Their songs tell a variety of stories, some entertaining, some funny, and some sad. "Richie and Ruben" is a perfect example. Written about two guys blow all their friends' money on get-rich-quick schemes, I found myself laughing from the start with lines like this: "They opened up a bar called Living Hell/Right from the start, it didn't go too well." "Acela" has some awesome blues-influenced pop grooves that will have you bouncing around in no time. "A Road Song" features some country-style twangs and is about a love letter written by a rock musician. It has some cool hooks and you'll be singing the chorus long after the song is over. If you like your music crisp and fresh with a lot of witty, humorous lyrics, you're going to love this! Give it a try and you won't be disappointed.
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The first thing that strikes me about 'Sky Full of Holes,' the fifth studio album by the New York power-pop quartet Fountains Of Wayne, is how the band has stripped back the '80s New Wave cheese that marked their previous album (2007's amusing, if lightweight, 'Traffic & Weather') in favor of a rootsier sound that often recalls the Jayhawks and early Wilco.

The band has dabbled in country and folky sounds in the past -- most notably on "Valley Winter Song" and "Hung Up On You" from their 2003 commercial breakthrough 'Welcome Interstate Managers,' "Fire in the Canyon" and "Seatbacks and Traytables" from 'Traffic & Weather,' and a few rarities like their covers of Ricky Nelson's "Today's Teardrops" and Jackson Browne's "These Days" (as well as spare originals like "Imperia" and "Places") -- but they seem to be doing a lot more of it here. I especially notice it on "Workingman's Hands" (a mostly respectful portrait, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor: "Now your Uncle John walked a mile to school in a storm / And it was uphill both ways"), the sweet "A Road Song," the gorgeous "Firelight Waltz," and the haunting "Cemetery Guns"; plus, the chugging, mid-tempo "Acela," about a lovelorn boozer on a train, has an almost bluesy sound; and even the hilarious "Richie and Ruben" and the brassy, nostalgic "Radio Bar" are noticeably less reliant on guitar crunch and jangle than most of the band's other up-tempo numbers, though no less hooky.

Of course, the band's signature power-pop can still be found here, especially on the opening track "The Summer Place," "Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart," the psychedelic "Cold Comfort Flowers," the breezy summer anthem "A Dip in the Ocean," the urgent choruses of "Action Hero," and even the slow-burn ballad "Hate to See You Like This.
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Everyone who owned a radio between 2000 and the current day has likely heard "Stacy's Mom." And while that snarky, little masterpiece of a pop tune is still brilliant and timeless in its own right, Fountains of Wayne is much more than even a hit like "Stacy's Mom" allows.

Sky Full of Holes, the troupe's fifth official studio album, is a gorgeous collection of strikingly memorable powerpop songs. And while the Fountains have always been melodically brilliant, compositionally inventive, and infinitely witty- Sky Full of Holes is (somehow) easily their greatest project to date; and additionally, one of 2011's best releases.

Fountain leaders Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger are the modern-day Lennon/McCartney, and that's no exaggeration. Their uncanny ability to craft satiating singles and high-caliber pop tunes has gone nearly unmatched throughout the past decade- And though I rarely agree with the publication, Rolling Stone`s decision to name Fountains of Wayne "`the voice' of Generation X upon the collapse of Nirvana" is more than fitting.

Sky Full of Holes exemplifies this "voice" even more aptly than even culturally relevant hits such as "Valley of Malls" and "Someone to Love" did previously. Two off-beat entrepreneurs attempt to overcome the waning economy in "Richie and Ruben," the hardworking American gets an admirable nod in "Workingman's Hands," the overly-produced synth-pop of the the 2010's era is astutely parodied in "Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart," and the album's poignant finale ("Cemetery Guns") is a military-themed requiem for the ages. In a nutshell, Sky is 2011's own personal soundtrack.

Not only is the lyrical material relevant; but also, the musical material is supreme in all respects.
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Adam Schlesinger, Chris Collingwood & company have always had a sympathetic streak in their songwriting, even when their clever character sketches chronicle the lives of some less than savory personalities. Take for example "Karpet King" from the B-sides collection Out of State Plates, one of my long-time favorite FoW songs. We all know the toupe-wearing salesman hawking his wares and leading a lonely life, but rarely have I heard this type of plight displayed with so much real emotion. It really makes this listener take a second look at the people around me and think about what it feels like to be them. This is the mark of true songwriting talent, and what separates FoW from the pack.

The latest entry in their ongoing discography dials down the womping hooks of their earlier work in favor of a subtler style which concentrates more on the storytelling (in Beatles terms, think "Eleanor Rigby" rather than "I Want to Hold Your Hand"). The character sketches here are often humorous but can also be quite sad or even downright devastating, focusing on the everyday lives of the sorts of people who are just barely hanging on. The one that hit closest to home for me was "Action Hero," the tale of an overstressed middle-aged man who fantasizes about fighting crime and jumping between buildings as his health falls apart. I know this guy, I've worked with him or sat next to him on a plane plenty of times, but never have I heard him described in quite this way. Other songs lighten the mood with biting humor ("Richie and Ruben," another devastating yet much funnier story) or just something fun ("A Dip in the Ocean"). But then we have "I Hate to See You Like This," a rare from-the-heart plea for a friend to overcome depression.
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