Posted by: Jeff | February 23, 2012

Album Review: Geographer – “Myth”

Geographer – Myth [Buy Here]

Modern Art Records
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Grade: B+

Geographer – “Life of Crime”

Stream the whole album ahead of its release via Paste Magazine here.

Though ‘Myth’ is Geographer’s second full-length release, it is the first to come on the heels of 2010’s widely-lauded ‘Animal Shapes’ EP and the first since joining San Francisco’s Modern Art Records label.  Prior to signing with Modern Art, the trio struggled to establish a wide audience (2008’s superb ‘Innocent Ghosts’ LP is one of the most egregious omissions on Spotify), but the strength of ‘Shapes’ has spread by word of blog and garnered a few spots on MTV productions and “artist to watch” features in magazines like Spin and Paste.

All eyes are therefore on Geographer in advance of their anticipated first release on Modern Art, and from the opening notes of album opener “Life of Crime” – a hesitant sputter of synth leading into crashing drums and a deluge of electric cello – Geographer seems to make a statement about their continued evolution.  This is a band growing up – unlike the innocent melancholy of ‘Ghosts’ and the over-indulgent synth-pop catharsis of ‘Shapes’, ‘Myth’ has added the steel of forceful percussion and electric guitar to their bubblegum sensibilities, giving the band an added depth of range and emotion.

Lyrically, ‘Myth’ covers much the same territory – loss and heartbreak – of prior releases, but there’s more strength underlying Mike Deni’s vocal falsetto this time around.  Even as he ponders the meaning of life (they say that life is for the living / but if this is life at all / it’s a life of crime”), the heavier instrumentation propels him forward.  “The Myth of Youth” introduces more serious electric guitar than has appeared on previous Geographer records, and the addition of Nathan Blaz’s electric guitar gives the track some indie rock chops.  The band’s new big sound is even more prominent in the finale of “Blinders” which crescendos into a wall of sound of synth, guitar, and cello, and the edgier, angrier guitar stabs of “Shell Beach”.

There are more untraditional pop moments, too.  The synth and vocal oscillation of “Kaleidoscope” is reminiscent of techniques used by Animal Collective, and the vocal harmonies Deni lays down wouldn’t sound out of place on a Grizzly Bear record.  This is the most experimental track on the record, and though it definitely sounds a departure for Geographer it doesn’t devolve into experimentation for mere experimentation sake.

“Lover’s Game” is by far the strongest track on the record, placing Blaz’s lovely cello playing back front and center behind a catchy stab of piano and understated drumming from Brian Ostreicher.  Demi’s falsetto in the breakdown is a nice touch before propelling back into a chorus that would sound equally at home in a hip coffee joint or bar dance floor.  “Game” is the clearest link to the superb ‘Shapes’ EP (aside of course, from the album’s only EP re-tread, “Kites”), and will no doubt garner the most acclaim by established fans of the band.

Overall, Geographer continues to grow and incorporate new elements of sonic texturing to accompany Demi’s familiar vocal delivery.  The strength of the band remains the unique blend of strings and the use of Demi’s voice as raw instrument, and the album clearly benefits from some superior post-production work (by comparison, ‘Ghosts’ sounds quite raw).  That said, after the dance-floor exploration of ‘Animal Shapes’ (a solid A in this reviewer’s book), it would have been nice to feature more synth-pop selections beyond the previously released “Kites” (which admittedly retains all of its appeal on this second release).  As the band seeks continued emotional catharsis they may be evolving into a more complex, introspective direction, and I look forward to seeing where that leads.

For fans of: Ra Ra Riot, Grizzly Bear, Phoenix, Local Natives, Synth-Pop, Chamber Pop



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