Tory Anne Daines’ new project, Fair Panic, has recently released FEELS, a baroque rock masterpiece. Backed by Tom Monda, Michael Abiuso, Steven Kirsty, Dan Bindschedler, Rob Fitzgerald, Kennedy Grey, Skylar Ross, and Ryan Palermo, the band blends theremin, omnichord, and electric violin with guitars and brass to create a modern baroque sound. Everything about this album, is beautiful, yet dark and complex enough that it avoids coming off as saccharine. This is one of those albums where I listen to a song and think, “Oh, this is the best track on the album, for sure.” Then the next song comes on.
Best listened to all in one go, FEELS takes the listener on a journey, bookended by the lush, orchestral “Processional” and “Recessional,” which lends a ritualistic sense to the rest of the album and frames the other tracks within a different world – a dark fairy tale of harrowing but gratifying self-discovery.
“The Box” features the tinkling melody of a music box, over which Daines sings with creepy, haunting fragility: “I walked through the forests of time with you. I tore my dress, you lost your shoe/Oh darling, oh darling, I loved you/You and only you/But seasons changed, and so did I.” The listener conjures the image of a ballerina in a music box – sweet and nostalgic, maybe, but when she’s done dancing and the music stops, she’s trapped in that dark box, alone. “I’m stuck in the forests of time for you/Always alone in the memory of you.” If this sets up the narrative for the rest of the album, we can expect to see this trapped woman’s first steps toward realizing the power she holds.
“Gateway Drug” offers a lighter tone to the story. We see some lingering uncertainty, some desire for reconciliation and unwillingness to let go of who she’s been. “I long to be for you and me,” Daines chants on “You and Me,” before the scales fall away and the mood changes in “Combat Love.” All uncertainty gone, this person is now focused and ready to fight for herself.
On “Interlude,” we hear another voice, Kennedy Grey: apologetic, pleading. Directly after, we hear Daines respond with, “When you’re all alone/And you’re feeling safe/I’ll be the ghost that haunts your grave.” “Soul” feels like a turning point on the album, a vengeful creature harnessing the power within her unapologetically. This new tone continues in “Lizard Queens,” a short, cabaret-style tune dripping with sass that rips apart cultural expectations and exploitation of women – acts often inexplicably perpetrated by other women (also, I absolutely want “Mess with bitches, you’re gonna get stitches” as a tattoo).
Each track after this ramps up the tension and emotion until the climax of the album. “Nicole” is an ethereal love ballad that returns to the emotion and adds the perfect touch of romantic strength-in-vulnerability to round out this half of the album. Sensitivity is a strength on these tracks, and somehow, Daines makes “I am happy to be alive” feel like a revolutionary statement. She doesn’t forget what came before, but uses it to move forward stronger. “I’ve got what it takes to survive,” she sings on the brassy “Beat Street,” and the listener is left with no doubt of that.
“I’m finally free/And smiling for me,” she proclaims over the melancholy strings of “We’re Through.” Then in comes the march, a joyful, inspiring finish followed only by a peaceful outro, the satisfying conclusion to this story.
Fair Panic’s music is electrified emotion, delicate yet powerful, romantic yet rough, visceral and honest and bold. Tory Anne Daines holds nothing back, which makes for a powerful musical experience that should be enjoyed not once but many times. FEELS is available now on Bandcamp and Spotify.
Carrie is N.J. Racket's copy editor and contributor of many album and EP reviews. She also has a puppy named Halo and loves Mac N Cheese.