Architecture in Helsinki Places Like This

[Polyvinyl; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: pop, twee, disco
Others: The Fiery Furnaces, B-52s, David Byrne

Architecture in Helsinki make boisterous, Technicolor-toned indie pop, and they do it with a verve that is alternately thrilling and exhausting to listen to. This quality seemed to be the main focus of all the hyperbolic praise prompted by the band’s 2005 release, In Case We Die, and rightfully so. It’s hard to deny the infectious charm of “Neverevereverdid” or the sugar rush of “Frenchy, I’m Faking,” but once you get past the candy-coated shell, Architecture in Helsinki don’t provide a lot to chew on. Much of this can be attributed to the band’s self-consciously awful lyrics, which range from 10-year-old-doing-a-Madlib juvenile to stream-of-consciousness bizarre. On Places Like This, however, songwriter/vocalist Cameron Bird and company seem to acknowledge their lyrical deficiencies by taking them to the logical extreme of self-parody, while keeping all their kitchen-sink instrumental layers intact. They know it’s silly, but they don’t give a shit, and neither should you.

That’s not to say that some curiously dark edges don’t exist on Places, as when Bird bittersweetly sings about "Leaping off the edge of this world" on album opener “Red Turned White.” But from there, things get loopy. “Heart It Races” is a dreamy love song with ethereal steel drums, and it’s followed by the prototypical Architecture in Helsinki party-jam “Hold Music,” complete with left-field tempo shifts, bells, and whistles. That song, along with “Like It Or Not,” provides a great example of the band’s refreshing self-awareness, replacing attempts at sing-along choruses with shout-along, onomatopoeic revelry. But if you’re still waffling about joining in on the monkeyshines, “Debbie” will settle you on one side of the love-it-or-hate-it line in the sand. The track steps along as a cheeky bit of disco-funk until a gloriously pretentious and out-of-place horn solo climaxes with Bird bleating in falsetto. You might cringe, you might smile, but you won’t not react. Just know that Architecture in Helsinki have enough energy to continue cranking out these adrenaline and saccharine cocktails until you do.

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