Throughout the entirety of debut LP, Caffeine Queen, Berklee-bred alt-rock band Them Fantasies expands on what it means to have a truly undeniable groove, even a year after its release.

Rising from an amalgamation of their various musical backgrounds of jazz-fusion, punk, and pop, trio Them Fantasies speaks a sound resonant of artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Thundercat. They skillfully sustain a playful sound in their first album, Caffeine Queen, despite juggling lyrical concepts of love and loss. Honing in on driving melodies from guitarist Eric McCoy, a strong bass presence from lead singer and bassist Dominic Cannarella, and fast drum patterns from Max Meizlish, Caffeine Queen is a fresh, energetic, and nuanced take on rock and funk. 

The intro “Story Time” takes on a light approach of hypnosis. Starting with the hopes of drawing listeners into the abstract story of the LP, Cannarella captivates with resonant vocals, “Come gather round / I’ll tell you all a story.” Laid over an earthy, raw, picked acoustic guitar lick from McCoy, Cannarella’s vocals create a feeling of warmth that carries throughout the album. 

With the prelude fading, Them Fantasies spends some time exploring the ideas that surround troubled relationships in “Bastard Too,” “Acid Anna,” and later, “Plastic Heart.” Hopeful guitar tones from “Bastard Too” imitate the feeling of love and worth found in the following lyrics: “I know you’re all I want and more / I’ll give you the world when I am sure / Then I’d forget I was a bastard, too.” Meanwhile, the propulsive bass and consistent snare provide some contrast, mimicking the racing, speeding thoughts that are found in a trying relationship. Earnest and groovy, the song perfectly encapsulates the band’s entire sound. 

With a subtly slapped bass melody and muted drum pattern that relies heavily on cymbals, the instrumentation for “Acid Anna” creates the perfect soundscape for a guitarist’s dream, and the most psychedelic song on the record. The lyrics play with the ideas that come with hallucinating and seem to be distraught, repeating this idea about “when she leaves / when he leaves / when you leave / be sure to lock the door.” The song echoes this unease, ending with an unexpected minor chord and feeling of complete unresolve: “you forgot to lock the door.”

Here, the album becomes more candid, using songs like “Hook-Up Culture” and “Nothing But the Screen” to both highlight and mock modern societal issues. “Hook-Up Culture” embraces the groove of the band’s sound, with a catchy, heavily slapped bass, and an even snare pattern alongside plenty of cymbals. Various effects keep the song lighthearted and playful, while the lyrics paint a picture of a party,  mimicking the fun feeling of the song and hookup culture in general. 

Addressing youth’s crippling addictions to technology, “Nothing But the Screen” similarly highlights modern issues in a dystopian manner, letting the guitar take precedent. A concession of drum clicks creates a slightly unnerving feeling throughout, emphasizing this idea’s importance, speeding up with each plea of urgency, “and I say…”. With a bass-y bridge at 3:32, the song finds its way back to a more typical rock sound, until the last refrain.

Self-titled “Them Fantasies” starts with an impellent energy that fades into an undeniable groove, mirrored by lyrics beautifully harmonized: “I’m counting sheep and running down / a codeine fiend a life abound / accountable yet who’s to blame / let’s drink another hide the shame.” Leaving no room for hesitancy, the song immediately hones into a plucked bass. It’s light, airy, fun, and yet so damn catchy—it’s pleasantly forceful with plenty of variation, which overall showcases what the band is all about. 

Songs like “Melatonin” and “Plastic Heart” carry on the band’s unique sound. As Meizlish skillfully starts “Melatonin,” the band joins in to create a wall of sound similar to that of a big band (minus the saxophones and trumpets), only to break out into a descending bass slide that leads into a feeling of funky pop. The multi-tracked vocals act as a dream-like taunt to the listener, mirroring “Melatonin” with “lying awake.” On the flip side, with more synth, and more raw guitar, “Plastic Heart” falls into an even, authentic rock sound with a catchy chorus: “You should wake up / your plastic hearts aglow.” Mimicking the sounds of early Radiohead, it was the first song co-written by Cannarella and McCoy and acts as a simple yet sustainable introduction to the band. 

Finally, the softest song on the album, “Together (Eyes Closed)” acts as an acoustic ballad to close out the LP. With no real resolution in the vocal, a minor violin melody fades into a quiet, elaborate bass line and acoustic guitar lick throughout. In doing so, the song takes the cake for having the most differentiating sound compared to what’s on the rest of the album—almost a Death Cab for Cutie / Jack Johnson / Tigers Jaw feel of a sad and earnest love song. This song provides a powerful, yet soft and substantial jam to end out the album.

Caffeine Queen provides a positive introduction for this refreshingly satisfying band, and time will only tell what they’ll do next–in the meantime, catch their Quarantine Queen Sessions on their Instagram page.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.