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Brooke Fraser [Flags]
Posted October 19, 2010
By KevinDavis_NRT, Staff Reviewer

For Brooke Fraser, the Coachella 2009 music festival was the event that re-awakened her desire to make music. It was April and the New Zealand-born singer and songwriter was burnt out after completing a three-year tour supporting her second album, 2006’s Albertine, which debuted at No. 1 in New Zealand, reached five times platinum, and remained in the Top 20 for nearly a year. “I felt so exhausted, I could barely get out of bed,” Fraser says, “let alone think about writing songs for a third album.” Brooke Fraser’s new album Flags is a dreamy, alternative-pop collection that showcases Brooke's amazing singing voice, incredibly catchy pop melodies, and Brooke's knack for telling her stories through the lives of vibrant characters on songs like “Betty,” “Crows and Locusts,” “Jack Kerouac,” and “Ice on Her Lashes.” “I’ve never used as many characters or as much narrative in my songwriting as I have on this record,” Fraser says. “On my previous albums, I was singing completely as myself, which is why I think I got so burnt out from touring. Albertine was inspired by incredibly significant events and people and every time I’d sing I’d go back to that moment where my heart was ripped open. So singing such heavy songs nearly every night for three years took a toll. On Flags, it’s still me speaking, but it’s me speaking through the voices of different characters and their stories. It’s more survivable.”

“Betty” was co-written with Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman and Ben West. The song is about a cool, unapproachable girl who hides her Canadian-shaped birthmark - a thinly veiled metaphor for all the other things she is afraid to show people. “Crows and Locusts” is a story of a farming family helplessly witnessing the decimation of their crops through various forms of pestilence, told through the eyes of the young daughter. “Ice On Her Lashes” is a meditation on the cycle of grief. “There’s that moment when you get a phone call and find out that something life-shattering has happened and you look around and wonder how other people are still going about their daily lives, sitting in traffic or buying milk, when yours has just been changed forever,” Fraser says. “The song is about how most of us will at some point be somewhere in that cycle. Life goes on and the pain doesn’t go away, but becomes liveable.” Other album highlights include the rollicking pub song “Orphans, Kingdoms,” the high-energy, summery romp “Something in the Water,” “Who Are We Fooling?” a duet with Aqualung’s Matt Hales, co-written by the two, and the title track “Flags,” a meditation on injustice.

The song “Flags” was inspired by her writing trips into the more remote parts of the U.S. “One day this image of a flag popped into my mind and I thought, ‘Our lives are like flags - flying for a short while, a stake in the ground, marking our territory,’” she says. “We fly our colors - our history, belief system, culture, identity – but eventually our flag will wear out and return to the ground and someone else’s flag will replace our own. I feel like that theme weaves its way through my new songs. The characters in these songs were flags, and now we’ve come to plant our flags in the ground where they once were.”

Flags is a stunning album by my favorite female vocalist of all time, Brooke (Fraser) Ligertwood. As the writer and singer of my all-time favorite worship song, Hillsong UNITED’s “Hosanna,” Brooke is a singer-songwriter unlike any I’ve ever heard. Her remarkable singing voice and her interesting music and lyrics are truly captivating. The messages of the songs are spiritual, especially “Flags” with the chorus that “the last shall be first.” I can’t help but get excited by the excellent pop songs “Something In The Water,” “Betty,” “Orphans, Kingdoms” and “Coachella.” What Brooke does incredibly well on this album is blend upbeat and fun pop songs with aching ballads “Who Are We Fooling?” “Crows and Locusts” and “Flags.” This is a nearly perfect folk style pop album. If you like KT Tunstall, Colbie Caillat and Sara Bareilles, you need to get Flags, one of my top albums of the year.

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