RECORD REVIEW: ARCHITECTURE IN HELSINKI'S PLACES LIKE THIS
Playful pop that's a touch too unhinged and bleepy for its own good.
During the making of Places Like This, Architecture in Helsinki vocalist Cameron Bird and drummer James Cecil IM'd parts back and forth between Brooklyn and Melbourne: "It got to the point where we were jamming on Instant Messenger!" Bird says.
If that's the kind of thing that taps your keys, you will <3 this album. But while such ingenuity might set AIH apart from, say, Art in Manila or I’m From Barcelona (they’re not), it’s hard not to long for their previous unfettered, tiptoed, face-to-face meanderings. We still get the band’s characteristic echoed ethereality, but past timid, breathy harmonies have been replaced by orgasmic girl-gasps and blaring Bird vocals that trade off between Kermit-y, Fred Schneider-y, and drunken-subway-dude-y. Synths and random bleeps (is someone playing Frogger during “Red Turned White”?) play a greater role as well.
It's not an altogether bad adjustment: A playful party vibe emerges, and "Heart It Races" is a perfect summer anthem, flawlessly encapsulating the anxiety of a recent Brooklyn transplant with cheeky chants replicating the reggaetón thump that Brooklynites hear out their windows, while inexplicably great lyrics like "I bought it in a can/And stirred it with my finger" compliment echo-chamber steel percussion that conjures that guy from the L platform. But the highlights diminish from there. "Hold Music" sounds like a lost B-52s single, and its companions are all mercilessly up-tempo dancers and rockers: This is the kind of record you might pop in to stay awake during the final stretch of a 10-hour drive to meet your lover at a motel in Kalamazoo. (Motel in Kalamazoo--now there's a band name!) Places Like This ultimately shares qualities with its IM-chat womb: It's entertaining as hell, but eventually you'd rather just minimize the window and get on with your day.