Caution: If you take your music with two lumps of serious, then this album may not be for you. Architecture in Helsinki's third studio effort finds them at their kinetic peak, sounding a lot less twee, a bit more playful and much more new wave than on previous albums.
Places Like This is a blissful romp through new wave, funk, calypso and pop. Intricate, piping-hot rhythms bubble just below the surface and high-energy, herky-jerky vocals echo wildly over a musical jungle densely overgrown with alien synth sounds, bongos and thick horns. The Aussie six-piece has pumped up their twee so full of exuberance and kicked up the funk just enough that it becomes almost subversively over-the-top, yet oddly suitable for repeat listening.
You might mistake the third song, titled "Hold Music," for a lost track from the B-52's 1979 self-titled debut album. Cameron Bird's campy vocals echo Fred Schneider and, paired with Kellie Sutherland's Kate Pierson-esque expressive harmonies, get a goose from some peppy percussion and a fuzzy synth bass line. Later on, the funk rhythms and soulful horns on "Debbie" provide a solid ground from which you can gaze up at Bird's screeching falsetto. Toward the end of the album, the bongos and insistent staccato melody of "Nothing's Wrong" unravel into spacey noise after being drawn together winningly by Sutherland's bubblegum pop vocals -- only to reform like water on a freshly waxed car in a pleasant lyric coda.
Not surprisingly for these ambitious multi-instrumentalists, there are so many harmonic ideas on this album that a lesser band might have been overwhelmed and created a head-scratching hodgepodge of an album. Architecture in Helsinki, however, throws them all in the pot and spices it beautifully with dustings of several different genres delivering some of the best aural curry you've ever had.
In the end, despite its diversity, at no point in the album do you feel lost in a sea of disparate sounds -- it all seems to make sense together when bound by the band's contagious energy. Uncommonly strong nearly from start to finish (I'm not quite as intrigued by "Feather in a Baseball Cap" or the closer "The Same Old Innocence"), you should make sure to rip Places Like This as soon as you buy it because you just might wear the CD out.