Mary Timony Band The Shapes We Make

[Kill Rock Stars; 2007]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: indie pop, pop-rock
Others: Helium, Polvo, Smart Went Crazy

As the scene continues to change around her, Mary Timony has soldiered on, mining the spiky, instantly-identifiable indie guitar-pop sound she staked out with her former band Helium, and, after some brief proggy detours, on 2005’s Ex Hex, another record I reviewed for this site. Like Ex Hex, The Shapes We Make works best at its most straight-ahead. “Sharpshooter” kicks things off on the right foot, and “Curious Minds” is fun, but it takes the band six songs to get back to the opener’s level of excitement. The darker, arpeggiated dalliances on “Killed by the Telephone” don’t work as well, and while the confrontational “Pause/Off’ has earned some kudos for its feminist-lite declarations, the lyrics are actually pretty lousy ("My reaction, to your faction/ Go back to school and learn your fractions").

After making my way through The Shapes We Make a few times, I was downright confused. Unlike Ex Hex, which was fairly easy to peg as chunky guitar rock, Timony sprinkles the upbeat tracks into a mix of plodding prog numbers that kill the mood (“Pink Clouds”) or ruin otherwise decent songs (“Killed by the Telephone”). I just don’t understand what audience will crave both the rave-ups of “Rockman” and the “Hey Jude”-style coda tacked onto “Each Day.”

Well: it’s difficult to make something both original and listenable when working with the relatively limited pallet of indie guitar rock -- hence, many of the genre’s newest bright lights add an extra instrument or two (Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade) to the guitar-bass-drums setup. Even Timony benefits when she rides a keyboard for a few minutes (“Each Day”), but the songs on The Shapes We Make often end up suffering from Typical Indie Rock syndrome: yeah, it’s kind of quirky, but at the end of the day, what’s the big draw over catchier crap? I see The Shapes We Make getting a lot of adds on college radio stations for a few weeks, then getting relegated to the stacks. And yeah, I know it came out a couple months ago. I’m sorry, okay?

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