So I guess this whole cute theatrical Indie rock thing is here to stay. The three bands that come to my head (I assure you there are more) that adhere to the asinine genre that I just made up are Sufjan Stevens, Architecture in Helsinki, and Danielson. Of course, most people don't think as all of three artists as "cute." But if you see Sufjan cheerleading live, Architecture's adorable children's songs, or Danielson's matching officer/Mounties/air force uniforms, you'll get an idea of why I've lumped them together. Asthmatic Kitty's (the label of which Sufjan is one 3 CEO's) new discovery is Vancouver, BC's Shapes and Sizes. If you like this whole over the top theatrical music stuff, then you will like this band. Their music doesn't remind me of Sufjan or Danielson that much, but the aesthetic is there. It does however sound like Architecture in Helsinki. Argue with me if you must, but when I first heard their self-titled debut, those three artists came to mind.
Let me first say that Vancouver is one of the greatest places in the world. I spent a summer backpacking around that area a few years ago and if it weren't for the lure of the over priced apartments, crowded subways, dirty streets, and an overwhelming homeless population in NYC, who knows-I might have moved there. It's not surprising to me that Vancouver would play host to a band whose first track includes the lyrics "I like eating fruit trees off of trees when I'm with you/Fruit always tastes much sweeter, and air always tastes much cleaner when I'm with you." It's a playful place with plenty of space to run around and get lost, which is sort of what this record sounds like. It's dreamy and childlike and the band likes to change direction from time to time during the songs. But the album never loses integrity and doesn't sound like a bunch of children trying to sound like adults. Rather, it sounds like adults trying to recapture their days in theatre class. The album plays like a stage production and while there is no story line that I grasped while listening, it sounds as though you're listening to a story.
The actual music on Shapes and Sizes sounds like a mix of a lot of things. The end of "Island's Gone Bad" sounds like a Modest Mouse song, "Weekends At A Time" sounds like a playful Autolux, "Wilderness" sounds like Sufjan, and "Goldenhead" sounds like The New Pornographers. Actually, a lot of the songs remind me of The New Pornos while Neko is singing. Female vocalist Caila Thompson-Hannant doesn't have the powerhouse pipes that Neko Case does, but the poppy, fun, raw guitar sounds of Shapes and Sizes that stand behind a female voice can't help but sound as if they're emulating the songwriting of fellow Vancouver-ian, A.C. Newman.
Asthmatic Kitty has signed a promising new band that sound great on record, and probably even better live. It's a mix of pop, theatre, and childlike imagination. If you like sunshine or took part in theatre while in high school, you'll probably enjoy this album.