With a more upbeat tempo and lighter song themes than her previous album, Brooke Fraser’s third solo album, “Flags,” emotes against what Fraser was feeling mentally before beginning this album.
After three years of promoting her previous record, “Albertine,” on tour, Fraser was so weary that she did not even want to get out of bed. That is until a California music festival reignited her passion for creating music. The music festival, Coachella, is also the subject of one of her songs on “Flags.”
Fraser is a native of New Zealand and long time singer for the band Hillsong United part of Hillsong Church in Australia. She
came all the way to the United States to record and receive inspiration for her third solo album which released on Oct. 12. Recording took place in Los Angeles but Fraser traveled to the mountains of North Carolina to write.
Unlike “Albertine,” “Flags,” is not heavy on the heart. Instead, this album has a generally happy message, which is backed up by generally happy instrumentation and a folky sound. Without the storytelling, this album would not stay true to its folk nature.
Only a few songs pertain to serious issues of life. Others speak of love and adventure.
“Flags” seems to hint at Fraser’s release from emotional bondage and gives a sense of liberation to the listener.
In the title track, orchestral strings drive the arrangement of the song. On her website, Fraser said she does not like when strings are used in a “cheesy way;” rather they should accurately portray the sentiments of the song. The song “Flags” sends a hopeful message saying, “You who mourn will be comforted. You who hunger will hunger no more. Oh, the last shall be first. Of this I am sure.” The strings reinforce that message by building in power by the end of the anthem.
Orchestral strings are also used in “Ice on her Lashes,” but this time they serve a different purpose. “Ice on her Lashes” is about the grieving process. The strings are not the main focus but they contribute to overall atmosphere.
Fraser had three main roles in making this album: singer, songwriter and producer. However, lots of collaboration also took place. She wrote “Betty” with help from Jon Foreman from Switchfoot and Ben West from The Real Efforts of Real People. She invited a group of unknown local musicians to play in “Here’s to You.” And, she worked with Stevie Blacke, a multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles, to arrange the strings used in her music.
The use of characters and narrative throughout the album was also a trend of the project. Most characters are fictional, such as Betty in “Betty” and the personified woman from “Ice on her Lashes.” In addition, the song “Jack Kerouac” is not directly about the famous novelist. It is about a woman who, like Kerouac, is well-traveled.
“Crows and Locusts” is based on a family from a Steinbeck novel that loses all their crops due to pestilence. Though this CD is not overtly spiritual, as Fraser’s other albums were, this song ties in a well known hymn to its lyrics. At the end of the song, the listener hears “What can wash away my sin, Nothing but the blood…” Still, the song does not say “of Jesus,” but it is implied.
It seems, instead of giving truth outright in her album, Fraser want to provoke more thought from her listeners.
In “Flags,” Fraser slightly separated from spiritual themes and utilized her creativity to create an album that would provide something fresh and inspirational to a wider audience.
She will be in concert at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on Dec. 2. For more information and ticket prices visit www.brookefraser.com.