Hey, There’s a Bird in This Mirror!

Diversion Enthusiast Society, est. 2007

Music Marathon 2007, Part 2 (Architecture in Helsinki – Battles)

with one comment

The marathon continues…

Architecture in Helsinki – Places Like This

I found Architecture in Helsinki’s last (non-remix) album, In Case We Die, to be a perfect example of the ironic “fun” that informs a lot of the bands that pass as experimental these days, like Animal Collective and the Fiery Furnaces. It was dance-y, but not dance-y enough for most people to ever actually want to dance to it. There was enthusiasm, but it was hard to figure out what exactly the singers were enthusiastic about. There were a lot of instruments playing, but the songs were practically afterthoughts.

Since then, two members have left the band, and it seems to have undergone a significant overhaul. The sound is polished, even the most jarring of the rhythms has been smoothed out with a loaded production, and, if the lead vocals sometimes land slightly west of being in key, I totally buy the energy. In fact, the lead vocalist (I’m not sure who actually sings or plays what on this CD) sometimes sounds like D. Boon from the Minutemen, a guy who always sounded like he meant what he sang. I think this disc probably eluded some of their old fans due to the polish and emphasis on straightforward grooves at the expense of indie idiosyncracy (although it’s still plenty idiosyncratic – the skronking synths bring to mind a funkier, far less abrasive Brainiac). It’s too bad, because it’s a step forward for them.

Band of Horses – Cease to Begin

For those of us who stopped feeling guilty about liking this band despite the obvious My Morning Jacket influence long ago, this will still contain few surprises. But that’s okay. There are small innovations made since last year’s debut. The southern elements that tied them to MMJ are less overt on a lot of tracks (despite the band claiming otherwise in interviews, oddly enough), the songwriting is more confident on both rockers like “Is There a Ghost” and “Marry Song,” as well as mid-tempo tracks, like “No One’s Gonna Love You,” which comes off like particularly good Parachutes-era Coldplay (before they started using that “Clocks” beat on every other song). It remains to be seen whether Band of Horses will ever fully get past its influences, or whether those influences are even influences at all or merely the matter of a coincidental vocal resemblance between Ben Bridwell and Jim James and James Mercer (the Shins), but as long as they’re cranking out good songs, does it matter?

Battles – Mirrored

Not usually being a fan of instrumental math rock, I have no idea how close Mirrored comes to Tyondai Braxton’s solo work, Don Cabellero, or Lynx (obviously, it doesn’t have all that much in common with John Stanier’s work in Helmet or Tomahawk), but I’ve heard the album praised by some folks who do pay attention to this stuff as particularly exemplary. I’ll buy that. One of my sticking points with math rock is the lack of repetition, the reliance on intricacy over composition. Battles are smart, though. The best songs on Mirrored (basically, anything in the first half, plus “Tij”) have hooks and refrains, they have consistent grooves (or, in the case of “DdiamondD,” a hard-to-pin down set of tricky grooves that manage to stick, regardless). In fact, the most surprising thing about Battles, given its pedigree, is the apparent simplicity of a song like “Atlas,” which reveals its complexity only upon multiple listens. Also, you can never underestimate the appeal of vocals, even vocals treated to be unrecognizable. Mirrored falters a little in its third quarter, but it’s a small complaint.

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Written by Dave

November 27, 2007 at 1:09 pm

One Response

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  1. I went nuts over Mirrored the first time I heard it, but I haven’t had a strong desire to listen to it recently. Atlas is still one of my favorite songs of the year, though. I would dance around my dorm room like Spazzville’s village idiot listening to that song over and over. I’d love to open a movie with that song, and like, a guy running. Why he’s running, we don’t know. Maybe something’s chasing him. Maybe he’s late for a train, but there’s a giant robot choir on a parade float at one point.

    It’d be great.

    Patrick Ripoll

    December 16, 2007 at 10:57 am


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