the most serene republic...and the ever expanding universe
  • THURSDAY, JULY 09, 2009

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The Most Serene Republic must get tired of being bombarded with Broken Social Scene comparisons, but to be fair, there are more than a few similarities. They're a Canadian band on the Arts & Crafts label, notorious for their multitude of members and songs whose perplexing titles are only rivaled by their grandiose structures. But though they're situated firmly in the northern school of vast, intricately layered epicness that brought us the Arcade Fire and the Black Mountain Collective, TMSR demonstrates once again that they can hold their own among the aforementioned sonic yetis.

The prancing "Patternicity" is a fragile gem, the lone instrumental insulated by powerhouse song-walls on either end. It charms with light-footed pianos and swooning violins that summon sugar plum fairies out of the woodwork and remind you of a time when the words "Swan Lake" belonged to Tchaikovsky rather than Spencer Krug.

Otherwise, "grandiose" is the defining feel of their latest release And the Ever Expanding Universe. The album title hints at infinity and the tracks do their best to follow through. Although most songs hover around the 3-minute range, they tend to feel much longer: tracks flutter between tones and time signatures, earnest choral invocation yanks the gravity out from insistent drums, layers of sound intertwine to form a fabric as thick as song titles like "All of One is the Other" may suggest.

But the zen-like uniformity of such a mantra has a downside as well: all the buildup never escalates to a knockout. "Catharsis Boo" is lovely but ephemeral; the promised catharsis is nowhere to be found. While all tracks are ripe to explode (and the closer, "No One Likes a Nihilist" almost does), none hit the mark the way "Present of Future End" did on 2007's Population.

Each individual song is so overwhelming that they tend to cancel each other out, so that when the album leaves you with a singular impression rather than any particular moments. The only way to listen to this is to let it wrap around you, to immerse yourself in TMSR's tumultuous vision and soar through their elegant, boundless universe, to go with it and not question what it is about Canada that generates such dramatic music. Must be something in the air.-Nina Mashurova

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