Maclean | Talker (s/r)

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cd_maclean.jpgThe music's ethereal, uplifting, wandering, the words caught on the uplift of a breeze, carrying you along.







I know. You're sitting there scratching your head. Just who is Maclean? Have you heard of them? No, don't think that you have.

But I'm going to do you a favor now and tell you that you must. Maclean is a band that instantly rewards listeners with its own brand of inviting, accessible indie pop. The music's ethereal, uplifting, wandering, the words caught on the uplift of a breeze, carrying you along. Can you see the meadow, the lush grass and waving flowers? Can you smell the air? Maclean will take you there.

Disc opener "See" is almost Bloc Party-ish in its intensity; drums keep a quick beat beneath strings and the syrupy smooth vocals of Denver Harris. You'll think of Doves maybe, of Chin Up Chin Up or +/-. Familiar yet refreshing, it's hard to compare.

The pace slows on the next two tracks, "When I Saw Her Twirl" and "Failure of the Positively Good Man." The former is adrift in a sea of strings and piano, and a gently loping beat beneath Harris's smooth delivery. There's almost a '70s throwback to the latter, and I mean that in the best possible way: it's smooth pop music, pure and oh, so simple.

A stripped-down piano introduces the next song. As Harris intones, "We can be much better people," you'll feel yourself beginning to embrace the idea of interconnectedness. Following a 30-second meandering keyboard lead-in to "Fee Fi Fo Fum," Harris pleads, "Tell me/ tell me that I'm not alone." Intricately layered instruments weave a foundation of percussion, guitar and keys, throwing the odd time signature into the mix to keep things really interesting.

The title track's a slow burner until the orchestra of instruments rises up, Harris's voice swelling above them. There's a folky edge to "Don't Forget," proving that layered indie-pop isn't all this quartet is capable of. This one, too, is a song of the outdoors, a song of swelling hearts drenched in gentle sunshine. Following the upbeat, WOXY-ready "Lighthouses Lighthouses Lighthouses," "Conversations" captures the magic in the mundane: "Everybody's up in the morning/ we're making breakfast for too many people/ I guess it's enough to go around/ just take your pick." Once again, an aching violin creates a beautiful bridge.

The upbeat and oddly named "Off My Mind/Everett" inspires toe-tapping before giving way to the meandering "Paper Courage." A guitar winds a nearly two-and-a-half-minute path toward discovery before allowing violins and then vocals to intercede. This one may conjure Margot & the Nuclear So and So's: thoughtful, gently delivered lines, creative instrumentation, control giving way to cacophony. Disc closer "Oh To Be" is a seven-minute epic which finds Harris promising, "It's getting harder, it's getting tough/ but all the searching ends tonight." A fitting sentiment, that, for this expedition we've just been on.

Exploration, self-discovery, unity, comfort: all of it's right here, captured in a digital file downloadable to your computer. Now that's what I call a technological breakthrough of the highest order. A | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: The Shins' indie pop, Bloc Party's mellower moments, Coldplay's soothing side

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