Foreign Born Person to Person

[Secretly Canadian; 2009]

Styles: indie rock
Others: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, DeVotchKa, The Verve

The essence of Person to Person is the assonant melodies, but lead singer Matt Popieluch doesn't bow respectfully down to this sound; his voice -- rapsy, nasal and strong -- stands above and apart from the instruments. The effect is like hearing The Verve sing a great song again. At their most plaintive, Foreign Born swoon in a controlled but beautiful manner, as on the final, all-too-brief "Wait In This Chair," where tambourines add a glint to a yearning but patient guitar melody. At their most playful, they cause riots with their guitars, chugging through the robust, messy, stubborn verse of "Winter Games" to a pretty chorus that pours down through a hole in the clouds.

They've been compared to The Walkmen and admired by Edward Droste, but Foreign Born's sound is simple and undecorated. Person to Person is familiar, but it's rarely predictable. There are reliable and simple songs, but there aren't many of them. "That Old Sun," the second track, throws out "Blood Oranges," the rather forgettable, emo-leaning waltz that opens the album and renders us quite confused with a melody that cheerfully leaps, shouts, and claps. But from track three on, the album opens up like a flower. The melodies quickly seep into our inner humming mechanism, but their joys take longer to be fully discerned.

"Lion's Share" may be the best representation of the album, possessing both the sparkling, bright sound that the band pours into nearly every track and a melody that builds from steady, to aching, to triumphant. The lyrics are not all that memorable -- Popieluch repeats "Please move along, darling" several times, but awash in the glow and longing that the instruments create, it's perfectly clear what he means.

The happiest song, "Early Warnings," shows some benga influence; it's an anomaly but not a sore thumb in the song group. There is also a little of DeVotchka or Annuals' zesty anthems. It verges on cute with hand claps, tambourines, and gorgeous vocal harmonies, found in spades on "That Old Sun" and elsewhere, but Popieluch briefly winds the melody into darker realms before recovering it. The resolves among these songs are plentiful and slightly indulgent, but they're still lush and mostly gorgeous. "It Grew On You," which feels like an exit song but isn't, may be the album's best track: with elements of the least poppy tracks on Writer's Block, it swoons and considers, building more slowly than most other tracks. Typical of this band, both the verse and chorus and satisfyingly full, but the chorus rightly takes the song to a place the listener couldn't have predicted. The lyrics here are sparse and, as with most of the album, indiscernible. It's rare that a rock album could be so enjoyable without a great presence of the English language, but Person to Person certainly is.

1. Blood Oranges
2. That Old Sun
3. Vacationing People
4. Winter Games
5. Early Warnings
6. Can't Keep Time
7. Lion's Share
8. It Grew on You
9. See Us Home
10. Wait In This Chair

Most Read