Warning: Architecture in Helsinki are no longer twee. Whether this upsets you will depend on whether you like twee pop or not.
Admittedly, there are some twee moments in "Places Like This," and the whole album is colourful, sunny and catchy. But the Aussie band is rocking a more funky, rock'n'roll sound in their third album -- while it's not as winning or cohesive as their previous work, it is still entertainingly crazy and colourful electro-island-funk-rock.
It opens with what sounds like firecrackers exploding (or a keyboard dying a violent death), and segues quickly into a funky-electronic rocker ("So imagine the change/we spoke, it filled the air/so with the north-reflected southern light..."). But things really get going in the colourful calypso-pop of "Heart It Races," with its nonsensical lyrics about knotted laces and winter tans.
The songs that follow are a bit less funky -- electro/horn/dancepop, rollicking guitar melodies, strange ambient raps, and a bubbling song called "Underwater." Things get a little unhinged by the plodding, thumping "Lazy (Lazy)," but the band pulls things back together with sunny island pop of "Nothing's Wrong" and colourful rock of "The Same Old Innocence."
I can only assume that the new more electro-rocky sound is what prompted two members of the band to depart last year. While the first two albums Architecture in Helsinki made were just fun, frolicksome sunny pop, "Places Like This" explores a whole different kind of music than before -- sunny indie-rockers are woven in as well. It has some slack moments, but the overall confection is more fun than not.
It relies pretty heavily on some solid drums, colourful analog beats and glockenspiel, which can ring out in retro splendour, ripples, bubbles, dancey beats, or even blossom into a haze of psychedelic charm. There are also undercurrents of graceful guitar, and choruses of all sorts of brass just under the surface -- not to mention those great calypso drums in the second song.
I don't entirely understand what these guys are singing -- just as well, since most of what they sing is kinda nonsensical ("It's wicked where you tread/Shot an arrow in your head/Since the apple wasn't there"). But the vocals never get boring -- falsetto wails, deep croons, melodramatic pronouncements, and indie-girl/boy duets.
"Places Like This" has some bruised spots, where new explorations didn't really pay off. But the overall album is a fun, rollicking vacation in the sun -- very charming, and very different.