Do you like Animal Collective?
Do you like the Flaming Lips?
Do you like the Decemberists?
Do you like the Arcade Fire?
Do you like the Unicorns?
Okay, there it is.
I could've sworn I read a negative review of this album on this site awhile ago. Whatever sort of parallel world of HTML or momentary net-surfing hallucination it was lost in, I can tell you that I would absolutely disagree with whatever points it brought up. The review, which I will chalk up to one-time late night schizophrenia (if someone can find me a link to it, that would rock), was part of the reason I didn't check it out.
Every review of this album refused to give me a genre. That was another confusing sign that kept me from wanting to know more. I always hate when reviewers can't tell me what a band sounds like, but Architecture In Helsinki do a damn good job of avoiding the niceties of genre conformity. And since every review of this album would tip-toe around throwing this band into a genre, I want to write a review that can tell the world semi-accurately just what these noises are. The best way to describe music is to compare it to other music that is already known. So the following is just what In Case We Die actually sounds like.
The album opens with Decemberists-style bravado. Much like the Neutral Milk Hotel lovers, Architecture In Helsinki have a firm grasp on the theatrics of music. Their Broadway-style delivery on some songs recalls a danced-up version of the Decemberists' "A Cautionary Song" or "I Was Meant For The Stage." This theatricality is supplemented by the band's 8 members, each of them playing some sort of instrument (41 different instruments are used throughout the album). "Wishbone" is so theatrical in its delivery that it sounds like an indie rock version of the Grease soundtrack.
This incredible multi-instrumentalism calls to mind indie over-buzz band of the past year the Arcade Fire. The exuberance and energy of both co-ed indie rock supergroups is immediately comparable. They both have a subdued yet large scale sound. Arcade Fire's "Haiti" and Architecture In Helsinki's "Need To Shout" could easily be on the same album by a single band. But please, don't assume that this is just a band catching onto the hot new trend, as both bands formed at almost exactly the same time on literally opposite sides of the world (Canada vs. Australia, since you asked).
Architecture, however, tend to lean more towards faster-paced songs than either the Decemberists or the Arcade Fire. One of the first bands I was reminded of when I heard "In Case We Die" was the Unicorns. Architecture In Helsinki (yeah, the name is cumbersome after about the third time you say it) stick to each of their ideas an average of about 30 seconds before they move onto something completely new. The title track is divided into 4 very different parts, and the song is only three-and-a-half minutes long! These songs are relatively synth-heavy, much like the Unicorns. Also, both bands have very similar vocal delivery and the lyrical content of both are very whimsical in nature (hey, you find a better word). Maybe when the post-Unicorns side project -- the sonically identical Islands -- gets an album out, they can have a perfect tour lineup with Architecture.
The Animal Collective is easily compared to these guys, simply because both are extremely earthy, beautiful groups. End discussion.
The final band I will compare here is the Flaming Lips. Maybe it's the outright lovability of both groups, but I feel that fans of the Lips would definitely enjoy Architecture. The Flaming Lips revel in cute psychedelia, something that this band is extremely comfortable with. That ghost review that bothered me so much said that this band was trying to copy the Polyphonic Spree. I will say right now, the Polyphonic Spree merely apes off of the Flaming Lips and would love to produce an album of the quality of In Case We Die.
The other Punknews review of this album, real or not, was misguided. This album is incredible. Every track is good, and there is nothing stopping me from calling this the best album I've heard all year. If you like the Decemberists, the Arcade Fire, the Unicorns, the Animal Collective, and/or the Flaming Lips, you NEED to check this album out. If you're at all like me, you've needed something refreshing to come from your stereo recently. If nothing else, check out the obscenely catchy dance pop of "Do The Whirlwind" and the jungle warmth of "Maybe You Can Owe Me."
If that other review does exist, I propose it be done away with for real and replaced with this review. This is some good shit.