I can honestly say that in all my life I’ve never felt compelled or particularly moved by thoughts of pasta but here Tom Rosenthal is, dropping those rose tinted glasses over my eyes, making me love my starchy friend. He has a way with words that defies my vocabulary, he just knows what to say and how to say it.
Fenn is dedicated to his baby daughter (also called Fenn in case you hadn’t guessed) the songs are both to and for her, about making your way through the ‘funky mess’ of the world at the minute. Sit yourself down, preferably on a rainy day, and just give it your full, undivided attention.
Eponymous opener ‘Fenn’ is a painting by numbers for a happy life. It’s about making the best of bad situations and taking the little opportunities life grants us. It’s a big song and it’s a wholesome one, high notes, violins, Tom’s got it all going on. ‘Throw the Fear’ is one of my favourites. It’s upbeat and hopeful, about taking on adventure and being your own hero. This one feels particularly comforting and fatherly.
Half sad, half lovely, half ironic (there’s three halves to songs like this).
Next comes the first single from Fenn, ‘P.A.S.T.A.’ and what a beauty it is. A simple song it may be but I guarantee it’ll stick with you and you’ll be singing ‘beauty in the blandness, cheese for the sadness’ every time you make your dinner.
‘Oh No, Pedro’ feels homely. The piano is clearly where Rosenthal feels most at home, his vocals flowing naturally with it. The melancholy tale of Pedro is still oddly comforting with the closing lines ‘Oh no Pedro, it’s all gone wrong but it’s alright, we’re all in this song’. ‘My Lucky Pants Failed Me Again’ is about how sometimes misfortune finds you and all you can do is carry on until it blows over.
In the final third of the album ‘It Won’t Be Me’ stands out. The track seems glassy and chiming to me. It’s a bittersweet feeling you get from listening to it but it feels like a necessary part of the story Fenn is telling. ‘The Pleasure Was All Mine, Miguel’ is particularly poignant. The echoing group vocals on the chorus and violins make it feel atmospheric and ethereal.
The final song ‘You Only Need You’ is both affirming and heartbreaking in equal parts. It tells his daughter, Fenn, that as she grows older she’ll become her own person and she won’t need him. It’s a touching way to end the album, summative of the Rosenthal tries to tell his daughter throughout. More than the others, this song feels like looking in on a personal moment between a father and daughter rather than being the addressee of the song.
I’ve seen Tom Rosenthal summed up as a person that ‘gets people’ and that’s exactly it. He has all this worldly knowledge and bundles it up into care packages for his daughter (and the rest of us). Fenn was a bit of a change, gaining a string section was ambitious but it’s paid off, Rosenthal hasn’t lost his low-fi appeal. The album was supposed to help steer his daughter and the listener through the troubled and shifting times of 2016 but as we’ve gotten further into 2017 it seems only more relevant. Listen to Fenn here.