sextet’s full-length debut is hard to pin down stylistically, no doubt a
natural outcome for a band of conservatory-trained veterans. The eight songs
here build on their promising 2009 EP, Old
World Lies (two of the four songs appear here in different versions),
transitioning from one section of jazz- or electronica-influenced orchestral
indie pop to another and using instrumentation more reliant on trumpet, lap
steel, keys and flugelhorn than guitar.
The band creates warm textures that tease at and meander
around hooks without ever quite engaging, creating the compelling illusion of
pop songs rather than the real thing. The songs read more like mini-suites,
tempos and time sigs shifting at well-paced intervals around mostly laid-back
moods. But those same elements, and singer Edo Van Breeman’s Chris Martin-like
vocals (he sounds best in falsetto, or when the vocals are processed), make it
hard to really sink your teeth into most of these songs – being so reliant on
mood and texture the occasional pulsing heat on songs like “Slow Knots” and
Spoon-like “Lo Hi Hopes” burns lower than it could. A little bit of (guitar)
blood and guts, in other words, would probably provide welcome contrast.
Still, there are beautiful moments throughout, like the
wistful blend of pinging keys, flugelhorn and steel on “Hand Behind,” or the
juxtaposed horn parts on “Same Same,” or the strings and horns-rich “Heart
Trumpet,” whose sylvan elegance recalls Talk Talk’s more atmospheric work.
While it may tilt toward the head rather than the heart, the band’s unique
approach to pop songs yields promising fruit.
Tracks: “Hand Behind” “Same Same” “Insects” JOHN SCHACHT