9 Dec 2023

Review: In the End I Won't Be Coming Home by French For Rabbits

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 9 December 2023

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French For Rabbits

Photo: Bandcamp

Practical concerns feed into an artist’s output and vice versa, and such is the case with a new EP by Te Whanganui-a-Tara band French For Rabbits.

The songs of Brooke Singer and the musicians surrounding her have been gushingly acclaimed since they emerged in 2012, and her latest project sees a return to the studio where they recorded their debut. Its songs were written specifically to include a string quartet, and the results are as lush and widescreen as you might expect.

Singer told Under the Radar recently that she wrote these songs with the idea of performing them live with a string section. Prior to the shows that eventuated, the band went into The Surgery, the Wellington studio helmed by Lee Prebble, to lay down their song parts. 

She said they wrote the arrangements around the strings, which were provided by The Black Quartet, and recorded separately at Roundhead in Auckland. Singer wanted them to have a more prominent role than your average indie-pop song.  

If the EP's title wasn’t evocative enough, the song of the same name has lines about “burnt out fields” and a “frozen gun”, as Singer’s character navigates an arduous trek through the wild. 

The strings weave around the vocal melody, and add dynamism in moments when the band drifts away from a set tempo. On the next track ‘Baring Head’, they disrupt and complicate Singer’s smooth delivery. 

Strings were arranged on the first two tracks by Elliot Vaughan, but on ‘Leech’, Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper is credited. His work buoys a chorus that’s the EPs warmest, despite Singer’s character claiming their “heart is a leech”. 

Singer told Under the Radar the title track is about a journey across the Atlantic, ‘Baring Head’ concerns the value of art, and was written at the lighthouse it’s named after, and mentions one set on a subway. Scanning the lyrics, that would seem to be ‘Keep’, the strings-free final track on which the narrator is plagued by a guilty secret. 

In the End I Won’t be Coming Home is just four tracks long, and Singer was open that it was all they could afford. Studio time doesn't come cheap, and for that practical reason, the EP exists as a neat package, existing in its own world of travels, and travails.