It’s one thing to have a whole mess o’ Canadians playing music together in Broken Social Scene. It’s another to have a gaggle o’ Scots doing it in The Reindeer Section. But now it’s kind of getting out of control. Australia has thrown their hat in the “too many members” ring with the collective Architecture in Helsinki. It’s a lucky thing they’re good!
So what the hell is this band all about? Why are Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla so high on these people? Most have described their music as `twee pop’. They are essentially eight Aussies who play 29 different instruments, mostly keyboards, a drum kit, guitars, and a horn section. In fact, in the CD inlay, they have a cool graph showing what instruments are played on what song.
Fingers Crossed opens with a one minute song called “One Heavy February”. I wish it were longer. With infectious handclaps over New Order / OMD type keyboards, the song could have easily been fleshed out into something wonderful. “Souvenirs” is the second track and features vocalist Kellie Sutherland with regular vocalist Cameron Bird singing backup. This song is what pop music is all about. It answers the question of what would you get with a combination of Sigur Ros and Belle & Sebastian (why didn’t they just call themselves Kellie & Cameron?). Of course, if they really wanted to be indie they would have named themselves after all the first names of the people in the band. Can you imagine asking at your local indie record store for a copy of the new CD by Kellie & Cameron & James & Gus & Isobel & Jamie & Sam & Tara?
“Scissor Paper Rock” reminds me of one of my favorite Cardigans’ songs, “Happy Meal”. I remember my brother, who is very much into harder music, admitted that his favorite guilty pleasure CD was a Cardigans album. While AIH doesn’t have the hooks that Nina Persson and co. had, because of its lightness and the fact that it could be considered `cute’, it still might be taken as a `guilty pleasure’. Don’t let those people bully you! Fingers Crossed is a great record!
Its best moment is in “The Owls Go”, thankfully the second longest song on the album. There are various strange percussion sounds and bubbles popping about before the band scream backup support to the breathy lyrics in the forefront. Then Kellie jumps in with the catchy chorus, “attic in the basement with a knife serrated, I’ll protect you.”
That’s a little scary for such precious music! I loved every second of it.
“Kindling” makes me wonder what would happen if Wayne Coyne joined Neutral Milk Hotel and got some help from members of the Polyphonic Spree. “Like a Call” has a bassline that echoes The Cure. What’s still killing me is the fact that the songs all average only two minutes. In a time when there are bands essentially wasting five to seven minutes of our time every song they put out, I’m starting to wonder whether AIH’s brevity is really such a bad thing. A friend of mine used to say about books, “If you can’t say it in less than 200 pages, don’t say it.” Maybe this is true of two minute songs as well. Either way, Architecture in Helsinki is well crafted pop with challenging lyrics, high-pitched yet skilled vocals, and toe tapping rhythms. It’s fairly easy to see why Death Cab loves these Aussies. Crikey! They’re chockablock, fair dinkum, good little rippers!
New Order- Brotherhood
Neutral Milk Hotel- In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Belle & Sebastian- Dear Catastrophe Waitress