After I'd read a little of the hype surrounding this release, I finally hopped on board and got the darn thing. Upon first listen, there were tracks that stood out, and ones that just didn't do a whole lot for me. On the second listen, more than just a couple tracks crawled in under my skin, and on third listen I was suddenly knocked on my ass by the whole thing. From there out, it's literally been a little bit better each time I hear it. Leave it to members of Do Make Say Think and a whole batch of other groups to create what is probably one of the best experimental pop records I've heard in a long, long time (if not ever).
That might be a little bit on the fawning side of things, but I've listened to this album at least 20 times all the way straight through over the course of the past couple months and I've been waiting for it to break down. How it happens sometimes for me is that I get so enamored with a release that I play it constantly for a month or so, then it simply tapers off as something new comes along. To fight that, I've learned to stick albums out for a little longer and see what happens. Sometimes that sheen wears off, but after sitting with this disc for so many listens, it honestly just manages to keep hopping back in my player, shoving releases that probably should be my newest and best right out of the way.
One of the best things I can say about the release is that it definitely doesn't simply work one formula over and over again. There are something like 12 people in the band, and it sounds like all of them have brought little flourishes and ideas to the table. Even with all the different influences, though, the album flows like a dream. It opens with a touch of soothing ambience on "Capture The Flag" before busting into the blistering rhythms of "KC Accidental," as guitars race and soar, pushing out scores of beautiful little crescendos in the course of only 4 minutes. "Stars And Sons" follows it up with a more standard rock track with a throbbing low-end, but the melodies all provide a warm backdrop to breathy vocals before the group follows it up with another rollicking track in "Almost Crimes." Both tracks are dense, with enough little instrumental flourishes and toppings to keep you hearing new things for a slew of listens (like an empty bottle being kicked across the studio floor at the beginning of the former).
Sometimes, it's the little unexpected things like that which make the track. "Looks Just Like The Sun" is a breezy little pop-rock number with watery guitars and keyboard effects, but in addition to the regular vocals, the group left what sounds like live directions of someone else in the track. On paper, it sounds like a bad idea, or something that is done simply for the sake of being clever, but as you listen to the track more than once, you simply anticipate the words, "come in after this" and, "here we go" as fun little parts of the track itself.
Elsewhere, the group pulls off just about everything they try. "Late Nineties Bedroom Rock For The Missionaries" mixes shimmery guitars with almost a dubby beat (and a huge blowout ending), while "Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl" is one of the most stripped-down tracks on the disc, but is still no less effective, revealing that the group can not only rock out, but create brittle beauty as well. As the group states on the back of their CD, it's a batch of music for those who have been wounded but still have hope, and while most of their songs touch on slightly disfunctional themes, it's one of the most uplifting albums that I've heard in awhile as well. As a person who listens to music almost incessantly, I sometimes go through streaks where I find it hard to feel passionate about anything, but this is a CD that I've been able to go back to time and time again and still get goosebumps with. There's a lot of the year to go still, but this one's going to be hard to beat.