My Top 20 Albums of 2011: #4 Architecture in Helsinki’s “Moment Bends”
Why It’s Good: This is the point in my list where it became very contentious for my album of the year spot. This album and the three I ranked above it were the only albums on the list when upon completion of my first listening I really wanted to listen to it again immediately. Architecture in Helsinki’s Moment Bends finds the the cold black lump of iron that some may describe as a heart start to beat again, my pulse gradually taking on a very danceable beat. I have avoided most indie pop throughout my listening career as my first experience’s with it were a little hollow, but my decision to pick this album has proven to be a wise one. Moment Bends is a largely synth based album, capturing these odd sounds from out the mist and placing them squarely at the center of listening experience. Whether it simulated pan flutes or pulsing phased out bass, it all manages to stay upbeat and even somewhat frivolous, as if the band were just laughing to themselves as they decided to include it. Despite the fact that the band has two synth players, the music never gets overly busy in this area, but instead uses it wisely, whether it be enhancing the vocal sweeps or creating a nice atmospheric touch or playing the same thing with both to double the volume and really hammer the idea home. I recall when I describing one of the songs to a friend, I believe it was “That Beep,” how the music reminded me of the Gorillaz meets Flight of the Conchords, as everything kind of converges on this light hearted melody enhanced by the orchestration of instrumental dalliances. Perhaps I’ve just become an optimist as of late, but all this light hearted music is really striking a chord with me, reminding me of that same fun I had with the early catalog of the Beatles. The songs are all made for dancing, even the slower ones, and when the tempo jumps up you start feeling yourself getting into all over again. Moment Bends seems very indebted to the New Wave sound of the 80s, which has always struck me as rather vapid, but I never get this sense from Architecture in Helsinki. Something about their work seems earnest and well-meaning, as if they’re paying homage without falling into the trap of sentimentalizing the sound. Cameron Bird’s vocals seem most indicative of this, as his range gives off a lot of that ephemerality of years past. Whether it is locking into a strong tenor or raising it up to a falsetto, his exuberance is strong, but more than capable of becoming mournful, like a range from the Flock of Seagulls guy to Robert Smith, all switching up in a heartbeat. The guitar work manages to root this quite well, recalling both punk and ska but with a lightness of tone, which fits in but never soars to the grand heights the synth does. When it drops out of the mix, you know its time for things to go wild and that emotions will be rising like balloons we’ve lost hold of. Moment Bends is an exercise in just how catchy a song can get without it collapsing back in on itself. The strange thing is that it never feels ironic, but rather like a reliance on simpler emotions to convey a broad message of their significance. The music manages to be lush and enhance the music without getting overly winded or simple, finding that place where my youthful self would want to be part of it all.
Is It Guitar Pornography?: Not really. Guitar is there SOMETIMES, but not all the time.
Favorite Track: Escapee