Shapes and Sizes Split Lips, Winning Hips, a Shiner

[Asthmatic Kitty; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Others: Malajube, The Unicorns, The New Pornographers, Menomena

There’s a relatively new mode of composition among northern bands lately: the overstuffed, no-chorus wildness of idea-laden groups like Montreal’s Malajube (and its now-defunct Unicorns) and that of Oregon’s Menomena. Maybe it’s something about the colder climes that inspires aural restlessness, as Montreal-by-way-of-Vancouver quartet Shapes and Sizes follow suit with their second record, the distressingly titled Split Lips, Winning Hips, a Shiner.

Like their countrymen The Unicorns and The New Pornographers, S&S mix it up both vocally and instrumentally, with keyboardist Caila Thompson-Hannant and guitarist Rory Sedel trading warbles. Thompson-Hannant takes the lead most often here with wonderful results: her range of expression allows her to cut through some of Split Lips’ more disorientingly overstuffed tracks. When Sedel does step up to the mic, his Traditional Indie Voice serves as a nice counterbalance to Caila’s, but without her, S&S would bring much less to the table.

Split Lips is the kind of record that’s both fun on the road and at home and which all the Architecture In Helsinki and Joggers fans will gobble up. Every song is interesting, but like the latter group, sometimes the songwriting can’t live up to the musical ideas or energy. There were several times when Shapes and Sizes made me smile, but after multiple listens, I still have a difficult time remembering a single melody. It’s the price you pay to do away with reliance on big choruses, but fortunately for Shapes and Sizes, their exuberance manages to carry the day, with the promise of a great live act. Fans of any bands mentioned herein should give Split Lips a try, particularly “Alone/Alive” and the anthemic “Teller/Seller.”

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