Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Album Review: Architecture in Helsinki - Places Like This

Official Score: 75%

What the Others Say

Pitchfork: N/A
Tiny Mix Tapes: N/A
Coke Machine Glow: N/A

From the gentle tinnitus of Fingers Crossed to the attention-deficit-darling In Case We Die, emerges Places Like This, Architecture in Helsinki's most confident and, at times, annoying album to date.

From the opening track it’s clear this isn’t your 2005-era Architecture. “Red Turned White” is a no-holds-barred fun house ride. Followed by bongo-beat single “Heart It Races” and equally effervescent “Hold Music,” Places blasts off. I never thought I could compare the band to the B-52s, but somehow they sound like a dead ringer on the latter track. Thankfully the insanity doesn’t last much longer. “Feather in a Baseball Cap” is a trippy, funky turn that serves as a welcome transition from the exuberance of the album’s opening, and signals a decidedly less bombastic final three-quarters.

Aussies Cameron Bird and Kellie Sutherland are more in character on Places than ever before, a perfect complement to the theatrics of the band’s overall sound. Imagine a cracked-out Isaac Brock and Regine Chassagne racing ice cream trucks through your neighborhood.

This brings up my biggest criticism of the album, which is strangely its biggest strength. Its undeniable, balls-to-the-wall approach may mean it receives less time in this listener’s rotation than previous Architecture albums. Places is not the distant hum of “The Price is Right” in your grandmother’s living room – it commands your attention, for the first three tracks anyhow. Maybe that's why mid-album sagger "Underwater" feels like such a downer, like someone letting the air out of your tires while you're still on the racetrack.

The album concludes with “Same Old Innocence,” which features feedback-laced piano evoking album opener “Red Turned White.” Meanwhile Bird delivers his trademark quaver, singing, “It’s the Same Old Innocence.” He suggests that despite the new sound, they’re still the same Architecture. It’s a fitting final track for a band that has staked its career on sunny beats and happy singalongs. After all, it’s that same old innocence that gives Architecture its charm.

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