album reviews

The Most Serene Republic
Arts & Crafts (2007)

The drawing of a densely packed subdivision that graces the cover of the Most Serene Republic's "Population" is a pretty good representation of the Toronto septet's sound. Replace houses with instruments and imagine the whizzing cars as the alternating, colliding vocals of Adrian Jewett and Emma Ditchburn, and you've got the key to the Republic's sound: It resembles the chaos of a growing population tied together with the loose structure of suburban sprawl.

That unbridled instrumentation makes the Republic similar to its Canadian brethren the Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, but "Population" stretches further than just that Canadian indie-rock sound: "A Mix of Sun and Cloud" veers into jazz, while the singalong harmonies on "The Men Who Live Upstairs" recall the more lushly orchestrated numbers from Sufjan Stevens's "Illinoise."

For all of its frenzied moments, though, the Most Serene Republic also tries its hand at restraint: The first two minutes of "Multiplication Desks" are so sparse that the song almost sounds like a postscript, but then the faint pitter-patter drum finally explodes into the group's more typical jubilance to close out the song.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 7 December 2007, Page WE07
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