Progressive Twee? 

Architecture in Helsinki's Thoughtful Sugar High

Architecture in Helsinki
Fri May 27
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside

Beneath all of the schizophrenic song structures, expansive membership, and mountains of instrumentation, Architecture in Helsinki is not a neo-psyche band, an experimental folk collective, or even a chamber pop orchestra. No, what Architecture in Helsinki is, at heart, is a twee pop band. Let me repeat that for accurate emphasis: Architecture in Helsinki is a twee pop band. Got it? Cool.

Now that all the assholes have stopped reading, the rest of us can get down to brass tacks: An Australian band composed of eight regular members and countless contributors, Architecture in Helsinki twist twee pop conventions in ways that completely transcend the genre's preconceptions--a ploy that essentially amounts to dragging twee's quaint, antiquated corpse of a sound into the 21st. Like any pop band paying airfare for eight bodies, it's fair to expect that Architecture in Helsinki would cover a pretty wide sonic palette, but most would hardly anticipate the kind of stagger-stopped saccharine sensitivity the Aussies deliver. The band has released two masterful records to date--the first, Fingers Crossed, is a radiant debut that somehow makes eight voices and dozens of instruments sound like a whispered lullaby, with a sound that's modern, precise, and precious without feeling a lick cloying. Fingers Crossed is deceptively simple, but with enough clutter to nearly justify the amount of stage space they take up.

After a debut stuffed with enough subtle manipulation to fill out the 7" discographies of a dozen lesser bands, Architecture dropped this year's In Case We Die, a 12-song prog-pop opus that's as bloated as it is concise. Though still perhaps a little behind the experimental curve, In Case We Die feels like some serious next level shit in terms of twee-pop--with ground covered including confident dance pop, touches of playschool Morricone, an Anglo-island sound occasionally reminiscent of Orange Juice, a triumphant war cry chorus now and again, and maybe even a touch of off-Broadway musical--all with an average running time of about three and a half minutes. Fact is, AIH effortlessly shoves as many ideas into three and a half minutes as it takes the Fiery Furnaces a clunky nine (which, I guess makes sense--there are only two of them)--a sugar-high sort of pace that though occasionally oppressive in its theatricality, never feels forced or contrived. There is certainly precedence for this sort of elaborate, mega-faceted pop palette (Of Montreal, a band playing Doug Fir the day after our protagonists, come to mind), but few do so with either the sincerity or subtlety seen throughout In Case We Die--a record that, unlike a lot of Technicolor pop, feels thoroughly modern in it's fiber. That said, Architecture in Helsinki's blissful bombast certainly isn't for everyone--its cute and cluttered compositions are enough to give the dourest among us a crippling sugar migraine. For the rest, Architecture in Helsinki might just enliven the hope we've long since abandoned: Twee-pop for those convinced we have outgrown twee-pop. And with In Case We Die, they've succeeded in an undertaking adventurous enough to make twee-pop seem relevant again.

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