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Posted on May 5th, 2011 (12:00 pm) by Michael Cirigliano

The trappings of youth are a double-edged sword: while a new band can excel based on a high amount of energy and enthusiasm for their initial projects, when that youthful vigor fades, so can the merit of their work. Such is the case of Melbourne twee-rockers Architecture in Helsinki. Like Los Campesinos!, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, and many of the cutesy-bands that rose to fame in the early 2000s, Architecture in Helsinki created highly infectious pop music that sounded like a gang of school chums using everything they could find in their parent’s garage to construct their sound. Both Fingers Crossed and In Case We Die excelled when it came to this organic sound, and not surprisingly, the Aussies rose to great heights on the heels of these critically-acclaimed albums.

Unfortunately for Architecture in Helsinki, two things happened: the band grew up, and meanwhile, Australia has become a breeding ground for amazing and inventive electronic music. The former is a problem any band will endure in the trajectory of their career—how does one continue to change the mold of their sound, while still maintaining a sense of singular musical identity? For Architecture in Helsinki, the initial solution was to incorporate electronic elements into their sounds, using thin and clear layers of synth alongside their standard model of guitar, bass, drums, and brass and woodwind coloring. 2007’s Places Like This excelled in certain regards because of this change in sound, but where experimentation can initially work, it sometimes ends up leading to wrong paths and poor decisions later down the road. Moment Bends, their latest release for Downtown Records, suffers in this exact way. For a band that relied so much on voracious energy and a spitfire approach to songwriting, very few of the tracks on Moment Bends display the strengths of their former formula. Unfortunately, what used to sound natural now sounds affected, with tracks like “W.O.W.” and “YR Go To” sounding like knock-off pop tracks that will soundtrack Gap stores across the country this summer. [Even the acronym and text-type lingo of the song titles is enough to make me roll my eyes.]

The second issue doesn’t leave Architecture in Helsinki totally to blame, but does create a huge problem nonetheless: the band’s progression into electronic sounds puts them squarely into a head-to-head competition with the other Australian juggernauts on the scene right now, namely Cut Copy and The Presets. Compared to these groups, Architecture in Helsinki sounds anemic and thin, with their soundscape greatly paling in comparison. Even lead single “Contact High”, which relies on simple house beats and bright layers of synth to provide both rhythm and melody for the song, can’t match the symphonic scope of their country’s musical brethren: the beats ultimately sound contrived, and the Auto-Tune effects applied to lead singer Cameron Bird’s vocals in the song’s chorus make the group sound like an untalented group of neophytes—something they clearly aren’t. Being that Bird’s vocals have always been such a cornerstone to the charm of the band, the electronic manipulation is especially disappointing. Thankfully, tracks like “I Know Deep Down” and “That Beep” provide some relief, giving Bird and co-singer Kellie Sutherland the space to sing out in a pure and unaffected manner—with boisterous and naïve lyrics that remind fans why they even adored the band in the first place.

While artists should never be overly criticized for mixing up their sound and adding new elements to their work, only a certain number of missteps can be forgiven in the process of doing so. Moment Bends ultimately falters due to a lack of fresh ideas and innovative perspective. Rather than building on the tweaks that Architecture in Helsinki made to their sound on Places Like This, this new material completely veers off the road and into the inane side of the pop world, mixing together some of the most aggravating and silly trademarks of the genre. Sadly, the move in this direction ends up making the band sound like simplistic beings holding onto the last vestiges of youth—and nobody wants to really listen to that now, do they?

Track List:

1. Escapee
2. Contact High
3. W.O.W.
4. Sleeptalkin'
5. Yr Go To
6. That Beep
7. Denial Style
8. Everything's Blue
9. Desert island
10. I Know Deep Down
11. Out Of Focus
12. B43D

Architecture In Helsinki
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

50 / 100
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