There is something cute and childlike, yet dark about Architecture in Helsinki. Between the twee pop of their debut Fingers Crossed which garnered comparisons to Belle & Sebastian, amongst others, and the slightly more grown up, `tweener’ if you will, sophomore effort In Case We Die, the Australian eight-piece band seem to, like Tim Burton or Pee-Wee Herman, have both a young playful quality which masks terrible secrets and angst within. This album seems a result of eight wacky Australians gang tackling Tom Hanks before his `big’ piano solo (forgive the pun) and raiding the same toy store for children’s instruments, bleating them and shouting lyrics in rebellious fits and tantrums.
No two songs on this album can be grouped together to show a particular style. Each song seems to create and then recreate the sound of the band. Sure, like the first album, there are a myriad of instruments, but this time, instead of just creating a specific mood, they seem to be covering everything. There’s the continuation of the Belle & Sebastian twee soundalikes of the closing song, “What’s In Store?”, the Out Hud-like retro dance number, “Do the Whirlwind,” and the kids singing with Modest Mouse soundalike, “The Cemetery.” And even though there is no overall theme of consistency, it is those varied instruments and the falsetto voices which seem to hold the album together.
Expecting to hear something like Fingers Crossed, it took me a few listens in order to appreciate what the band was doing. What they were doing is what scientists seem to be focusing on quite a bit these days, chaos theory. The idea that something beautiful, things with patterns, can come out of random chaos. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow, what type of instrument, or whether the Aussies whisper or shout, it all seems to make compelling and beautiful noise, the kind that makes you want to lose those adult and sophisticated inhibitions so that you may put your fists up near your head, push your rear end out, shake it back and forth and dance like crazy.
From the girlie shouts of “One or two things we should’ve had but never did,” to the indie-pop Gus Gus moves to the Pacific Northwest-iness of “Maybe You Can Owe Me,” to the title track’s lyrics of “I’ve got machine guns. I never use them/I only borrowed them in case we die,” this album is, as I said earlier, a little bittersweet, darkness being covered by cuteness. Whether through a toy organ or a kazoo, AIH manage to create an album with mulitple layers. It’s up to the listener to dig through that strata to find what they want out of it. Me personally, I like the chorus from “The Cemetery” which is one of the few songs I’ve heard that could have been an outtake from Good News for People Who Love Bad News.