We Are The City - Above Club

by Justin Pearson Rating:9 Release Date:2015-11-13

Following 2013's promising Violent, Canadian prog pop group We Are the City deliver more than the expected goods on third album Above Club, reminding one that spontaneous moments of inspiration and creativity are still alive and kicking in modern music. It's an album of songs that don't feel the need to build to anything because they are what they are: fullly-formed and sure of themselves even though springing from improvisation.

The band stated in a recent interview with Female First that "Almost everything in our new record is improvised on the spot, including vocals and lyrics." For an aural equivalent, think

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There's a carefree, in-the-moment sense about the album that provides the perfect stage for the letting go of things bottled up inside as reflected in the lyrical themes. This spirit infuses itself throughout, but never comes off as simply a quick attempt at blending big-sounding pop with experimentation. Although that's still a part of it, there's more raw, serious stuff going on inside that's barely just below the surface, boiling and waiting to blow.

Taken together, the songs make up a tight ball of creative energy that bounces in all the right directions. They're buoyant, delivered in urgent bursts of emotional intensity. They avoid traditional notions of cohesion while still sounding developed and whole, never getting close to sinking.

Searching vocals and a sprightly melody color album opener 'Take Your Picture With Me While You Still Can.' Passion Pit's high-pointing pop is channeled on 'Heavy As A Brick' with its canon shots of bright percussion and introspective relationship-centered lyrics: "Bricks are heavy but they keep things together...She's heavy as a brick sometimes."

Faith plays an important part throughout their music, but not in an off-putting, preachy way. Take album highlight 'Keep On Dancing' and later track 'Lovers In All Things' for example. Lines like "Whatever God is, it's here with me now" or "Read the bible/ Believe the bible/ Need the bible/ Need the spirit/ Reveal the spirit/ Undeniably deniable/" stand out more as personal testaments than micro sermons slyly slipped in to coerce the listener. The former is about not giving up in spite of inner turmoil informed by "wicked vice" that the song cites in its cascading outro. Driving drums and twinkling, echoey guitar help to cement the song's catchy appeal. The latter's guitar strums that never seem to take off lend themselves to the pensive, undecided tone of the lyrics before the song explodes with drums and sky-reaching vocals, taking you by surprise: "Remember me as I was today/ Young and unaware/ Lovers in all things."

There's a determination that shines through all the distorted noise of 'Sign My Name Like QUEEN', leading to the more frightened 'Club Music' that shivers with a wiggly energy. It sounds like it can't contain itself, and the wild club atmosphere it accurately presents disguises the sadness that the song's protagonist is trying to push aside: "In the bathroom of the bar my tears will still come." It begins to break up both figuratively and literally, collapsing in on itself as it comes to an end.

'Cheque Room' is unpredictable, with shifting melodies peppered with keyboard clicks and frenzied drumming. Like much of the album, the rhythms don't sink in until the second or third listen, but reward with a wakening punch when they finally do.

A lot is packed into this tiny album, but in a thoughtful way, lending it a pressure that pushes against the seams gradually (yet firmly enough) so the rip explodes without any casualties. Its brevity doesn't take away from it, as music this emotionally overwhelming can only be handled so much at a time, and preferably in small chunks. Above Club truly is all those cliches usually ascribed to such similar, forward thinking pop records: fresh, original, and exciting. It manages this without becoming a cliche in and of itself. It draws on multiple influences while still constructing a solid frame for the masterpiece that it is, displayed with all the certainty of an in-focus, color snapshot of a moment in time that depicts We Are The City at their creative peak. One could easily adopt the chorus on closer 'Kiss Me, Honey' as a personal mantra and direct it at the album itself: "Kiss me, honey like you mean it/ And repeat it/ And repeat it."

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