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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Architecture in Helsinki
Fingers Crossed
Bar/None Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

October 1, 2004
And so it begins, with a twinkling of toy piano, a few handclaps, the honking of a horn and the kick-in of delicious synthesizers. Architecture In Helsinki, who employ a litany of instruments, know no bounds when it comes to pop music concoctions. In the album's delicious My Three Sons-styled artwork the band is nice enough to include a color grid displaying which instruments were used - 31 instruments in all, ranging from Roland, Casio and Yamaha keyboards and synthesizers to tuba, cello, glockenspiel, viola and assorted samplers. It's a heady, aspiring endeavor, to be sure, and the eight-piece Australian pop Cyclops Architecture In Helsinki has the chops to pull it off, but can they overcome their ambitions?

The answer is fittingly complicated.

In their strongest moments, Architecture In Helsinki employs deft hooks and absolutely infectious melodies to ensnare the occasionally obtuse approaches in song structure. Tracks such as "Imaginary Ordinary" need no help charming listeners, beautiful female vocals harmonizing over quirky, off-camber beats and rhythms. Likewise, the following "Scissor Paper Rock," with its charming, childlike melodica and trombone, is a syrupy smooth blend of idiosyncratic ideas. The pretty, airy vocals seem to be floating in an altogether different plane than the comical, plodding horns and synths, but it all fits together in an oddly harmonistic way.

Tracks such as "Spring 2008" illustrate one of the pitfalls of Fingers Crossed - it falls in love with itself a bit too quickly, recycling ideas with a frequency that makes the latter half of the album feel half-hearted. Time and again the ideas put forth early on in the album pop up with an unfortunate regularity later on. The vocal and sound samples add a playful touch that makes the rehashed melodies and rhythms of the instrumental sections that much more frustrating.

Architecture In Helsinki have created a great new angle on eclectic pop songs inspired equally by the Beach Boys and Monty Python, but it would be great it they wouldn't insist on beating a dead horse with it. The strummed acoustic guitar on "The Owls Go" is a great addition, and the chorus is as addictive as a diet of methamphetamines, but the horn section needs to toss a bit of variation into the mix because there are few people, even in this brain dead music culture, that aren't going to recognize that the same ideas are floating around on track 7 that were put forth in the album's opening.

That said, one of the true gems of Fingers Crossed, "Fumble" is buried three-quarters of the way through the album. The track combines elements from all across the album and pastes them together into sections that break cleanly from each other without ever seeming disjointed. It's a beautiful moment when the track fades into the cleanly played guitar lines of "Kindling," that song then erupting into as close of a straightforward "rocker" as you'll find on the record. A bit later the electronic saccharine of "Like A Call" bumps out of the speakers in relaxed organic warmth, setting up the stage for the subdued and bass-heavy glitch of "Where You've Been Hiding".

Aside from the repetitive nature of some of the instrumental passages, Architecture In Helsinki have carved a vibrant new niche for themselves with a collection of truly interesting, creative songs. Like a Burt Bacharach album from the future or a twee-pop orchestra piled into a school bus for an acid-drenched fieldtrip with the Beach Boys, Architecture In Helsinki don't need to worry about people confusing them with another band. They have a sound distinctly all their own, a tasty, fanciful collage of electronic and indie pop that becomes more consuming with each listen. Throw this disc on and let it grow on you.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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