Architecture in Helsinki | Moment Bends (V2 Records)

Moment Bends combines all the strengths of previous efforts and molds them into an incredibly delightful whole.

 

 

 

Cameron Bird’s quintet (down from the original eight members), Architecture in Helsinki, have always been fearless and unique. 2005’s In Case We Die was nothing short of charming. 2007’s Places Like This tried to be the soundtrack to an indie dance party and on some tracks this worked, but ultimately the album failed. Bird’s high, playful voice is an acquired taste, and when he put a frog in his throat on Places Like This it put too much strain on songs, downgrading them from funky-fresh to just interesting. After four years and some tweaking within the band, Bird and co. are back with Moment Bends, an album that combines all the strengths of previous efforts and molds them into an incredibly delightful whole.

“Desert Island” starts the album off with a calmingly gorgeous feel and immediately thrusts you into an ethereal fantasy world that will encapsulate you through the last song. Many of the songs question the reality of a relationship or a place in time, asking whether it will last or if it was ever real at all. “Escapee” and “Contact High” are two of the catchiest and most playful songs AIH has ever released, yet they each have a slight touch of sadness and melancholy, unlike the straight-up-pop, uber-fun “It’5!” from In Case We Die. Not many bands can make you dance while dropping one tear of happiness and one tear of sadness simultaneously. In the lyrics it is evident that Bird has had moments of great happiness in his life, but looking back, he seems to be wondering what went wrong, what actually happened. Was this moment in time really what he perceived it to be? These questions aren’t in the forefront of either song, though; the incredibly fun synth-pop and the way that Bird has been able to take his voice’s wispiness and raspy gurgle from previous albums and morph them into a different type of unique enchantment are what glues the songs together.

The album title couldn’t be more perfect. On the beautifully mellow “W.O.W.,” Kellie Sutherland takes lead vocals and looks back at the same moments Bird has been playing over in his head, just from a different angle and perspective. “Hey you, where’s your blood / Where are your bones / How come you’re invisible?” We’ve all driven ourselves crazy overplaying past events in our heads and not understanding what happened or where things went wrong, but AIH have taken these quandaries and turned them into brilliant pop songs.

Bird continues to question his past relationship/moment on “YR Go To,” but he is convincing himself to let it go and to stop dwelling on ‘what ifs.’ “Sleep Talkin’” opens with an elegant piano that is built on by a myriad of synthesizer sounds and rises into a majestic mess of electric guitars and rattling cymbal crashes. Bird’s optimism comes through with his realization that he may be “on a tightrope” but has “no reason to fall.” He continues to question the past on “I Know Deep Down,” and when Sutherland sings in the middle of the song, she crushes him by saying it was meant to end. The chorus comes back and masterfully brings new meaning to the same words Bird was singing earlier in the song.

“That Beep” was the first song written for this album, and it proves that AIH still has some great, sleek pop up their sleeves. The metaphor of being bubblegum on someone else’s shoe to be able to tag along is brilliant and nearly describes the song; it is bubblegum pop of the stickiest kind. “Denial Style” sounds similar to “That Beep,” but in a sequel kind of way, like the gum has been picked off the shoe and gets called out for not being enough fun. ELO’s epic space-on-earth sound is summoned and mixed with a Prince-like funk for “Everything’s Blue.” The band effortlessly pulls of the grandiose chorus juxtaposed with heavy beats. The clever line in the album closer “B4 3D,” “Don’t you know that it is understood / That if you take away the sunshine / Then you take away the starlight,” isn’t enough to save the ill-fitting track. It’s not a bad song, but to close such a perfect pop album with a slow ballad doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Ultimately, this is AIH’s best album to date. If you were to pour ‘80s John Cusack movies, a strip of acid, and a string of multi-colored lights into a blender, Moment Bends would be your final product. Drink up and repeat. A- | Alex Schreiber

RIYL: Broken Social Scene, ELO, Prince, I’m From Barcelona

 

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