Those who send me submissions should know two things. First, I find most electronic-based rock sterile. It’s just personal taste. To me, the genre hit its high point with Postal Service, largely due to Gibbard’s brilliant lyrics. Second, if you send me a hard CD, I’m much more likely to stick with the submission than if you send me a zip file. I do so out of respect: If you’ve bothered to get something pressed, and spent money and effort on postage, I think you deserve a little more than the mass e-mailers who clog my box every day.
Which brings me to Helicopters’ debut, “Sizing Up Distance.”
I quickly hear that it’s largely electronic, so I’m getting ready to hit skip.
But it’s a real CD, which you can buy at CD Baby, so I give it a chance. And I’m glad I did.
It’s got the retro-’80s feel of Junior Boys, but it doesn’t rely overmuch on being referential. The band has its own unique sound and message, and that’s obvious from the heft of “Getting Out of Town” and the beautiful acoustic interplay in “Scraps of Bread,” which recalls the best of the Postal Service. There’s just a few tunes here that sound like what everyone else in the genre can do (like the dull and repetitive “Iran”), with most of the album being an intricate lattice of live instruments, samples, acoustic and electric guitars, riffs and moody backbeats.
And it grows better with each listen, too. I’m on my second time through it and loving it more than before. There’s a lot here that’s easy to miss on a casual listen. On “Headlights,” for example, which is on right now, there’s a ’70s AM Radio vibe that I didn’t catch the first time around. And on my first pass, I didn’t appreciate the vocal scratching and X-party throb, but this time, I’m noticing the vocals that haunt the background, weaving to the front and then the back. It’s like I’m moving through a crowd. Great stuff.
BONUS ELECTRONICA COVERS!