The passion of The Felice Brothers is indisputable. It shows in their live gigs and their prolific releases. Favorite Waitress, the group’s fifth LP (not including six mixtapes), also represents the band’s first time collectively recording in a traditional studio. Working with longtime friend and producer Jeremy Backofen, they recorded in Mike Mogis’ Omaha enclave, rather than somewhere in their native upstate New York (like in a chicken coop like for 2007’s Adventures of The Felice Brothers, Vol. 1 or in an old high school).
So literally, Favorite Waitress is an escapism record because The Felice Brothers got out of New York to write and produce it. Musically, they retreat back from 2011’s electronic-influenced Celebration, Florida to the rustic romps of their earlier records. Thematically, too, Favorite Waitress challenges the pressures of modern society with the hope of a better, simpler life.
But The Felice Brothers take a circuitous and curious route to get there. Their references to Harry Potter (“Woman Next Door”), nursery rhymes (“Hawthorne”), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (“Meadow of a Dream”), Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen (“Saturday Night”) serve to juxtapose consumerism from naturalism, but don’t always seem to fit contextually, even if they sound good.
Favorite Waitress excels in its extremes—its hardest foot-stompers like “Lion” and its softest piano ballads like “Silver in the Shadow;” it’s that passion and focused emotion that made the band so beloved in the first place. What’s left in between, however, risks sounding too mainstream, like the other modern roots-rock bands criticized for being too into whatever it is they’re singing about.