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Music Review: Architecture in Helsinki – Like It Or Not

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Architecture in Helsinki has always been a hard band to describe. On their first album their sound consisted of whispery vocals, droning synths, and short horn bursts over simple traditional band instrumentation. Since then, they have progressively upped the tempo with each release and replaced the whispery style with more of a sing/shout one.  Throughout it all they have maintained their crescendos and sing-along melodies. The easiest way to describe them is an indie rock band with electronic flourishes; though that does not do them justice. The comparison I often make is that they sound like Arcade Fire and the Postal Service combined.

I say all that to help put this EP in perspective. It is the next step in the evolution of their sound. Lead singer Cameron Bird has eschewed the whispery vocals entirely, now he sing/shouts most of the time. At other times he performs an impression of Fred Schneider from the B-52s. Their whole sound in fact, is a bit reminiscent of them and other New Wave Dance Pop. Synths no longer drone, but now stab. Steel drums have been added to emphasize the melodies. Keyboards and the other traditional band instruments sound very ‘80’s influenced. There are no crescendos anymore; the songs are full tilt from the beginning.

The album consists of four new takes on older songs and one new song. The new song “Beef in a Box” represents the new sound best. It has the quick vocals, and the dancy, stabby guitar and rhythm. It sounds similar to Gang of Four and Blondie at the same time. Two of the songs, “Like It Or Not” and “Hold Music” were on their last LP, Places Like This. They do not sound that different from the originals, they just have more digital trickery and emphasize different parts.  “One Heavy February” is the oldest song redone; it sounds very different. The original was a somber instrumental. The new one is fast-paced dance songs with amusing shout-outs of different months.

Taken as a whole, this is the most energetic album Architecture in Helsinki has ever done. Some people will really love the new style, but others will probably hate it. The band certainly was not afraid of embarrassing themselves with the 80’s dance style music and the interesting vocals. I think it represents a significant step forward for the band, and hope that their full-length reflects that.

If you are a fan of the older Architecture in Helsinki stuff, you will probably hate this. If you liked their last album, or are a big fan of 80’s dance music definitely pick this up. It is probably the most fun album you will hear all year.

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