The Most Serene Republic—...And the Ever Expanding Universe
By Matt Conner
July 28, 2009
What they hoped to achieve on their initial foray is realized with this release.
The Most Serene Republic have finally taken advantage of their neighbors. Their previous albums like Underwater Cinematographer and Population avoided linking themselves with Arts & Crafts labelmates Broken Social Scene, even if their gravitational pull is difficult to avoid. The results were decent enough concept albums that never separated the indie-pop band, even as they were trying to chart their own course.
Yet what they hoped to achieve on their initial foray into the industry is now realized on …And The Ever Expanding Universe. Working with BSS producer Dave Newfeld, Universe unveils a mature band happily exploring (more like playing) every pop construct they can get their hands on and creating their best album in the process.
The his/her vocals on “Heavens to Purgatory” are a key counterpoint to the multiple layers and unexpected percussion on the chorus—an interesting choice by Newfeld. It’s here the album gains its wheels as the opener, “Bubble Reputation,” is a mostly forgettable piano number.
From here on out, the pop sensibilities bend but never break—the sign of a band and producer in love with the genre and displaying that love by figuring out the ins and outs of how it “works.” For example, “Vessels of a Donor Look” and “Phi” both move along unpredictably toward song’s end; the second half of “Vessels” is especially pleasing in its unexpected instrumentation and textures halfway through.
The universe within this album does indeed expand as time goes on. The first half breezes through a trio of sub-three-minute tracks while the second half labors amidst the fun everyone seems to be having. "Patternicity" initiates this imaginary Side B with Broadway like bravado as TMSR's orchestra maneuvers from playful to quite somber and back again. It's an entirely instrumental piece bridging both sides and, while imaginative, comes across quite laborious upon repeated listens.
Luckily, "Four Humours" quickly brings the focus back upon the momentum built on the album's opening arc. One of Universe's musical highlights, "Four Humours" rides a minor, arrhythmic synth-pop journey to hypnotic effect—the subdued harmonies and interesting melody collide beautifully. Later, the band steps into Kasabian-style territory with the dancehall-appropriate "Don't Hold Back, Feel a Little Longer." The manic energy and pulse is a strong choice toward album's end.
Closing things out is Universe’s greatest track, “No One Likes a Nihilist.” The lilting piano marking the beginning and appearing throughout continually gives way to near chaotic textures that threaten but never undermine the overall pop structure. The inventive result is an emotional ride you realize you’ve been on for far longer than this track alone and that ...And the Ever Expanding Universe concludes as one of this summer’s most surprising albums.