Wednesday, April 30, 2008

review: Tokyo Police Club - "Elephant Shell"

I wrote this review for The Daily a few weeks ago, but I had to post it here if only because I really think this is one of the best albums I've heard all year...


Though I don’t generally make the connection between great indie music and Canada, there’s definitely something to be said for the combination. And, as one of the biggest and most anticipated releases out of our neighbor to the north in a while, Tokyo Police Club’s “Elephant Shell” follows through on its way to be one of the best albums of the year.

TPC, a four-piece Ontario outfit that formed in a basement in 2005, has completely blown up in the short time they’ve been together. Last year was huge for the group, with appearances at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bumbershoot and the Glastonbury Festival as well as a guest spot on “Late Night with David Letterman.”

Up until now, the only recordings available for purchase were two short EPs — “A Lesson in Crime” and “Smith EP” — but the former still spawned three singles. The strength of their latest release makes me think they easily could show up that number.

“Elephant Shell” flows seamlessly from track to track; nothing feels awkward or out of place. And, beyond that, there’s really not a single weak track. As a whole, it’s more connectable than anything I’ve heard in a long time. Even when the album slows down with tracks like “The Harrowing Adventures Of” and “Listen to the Math” the melody is strong and the music powerful.

I almost hear Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard in bassist and lead singer Dave Monks, which is definitely not a complaint. I wouldn’t call it an imitation, but more like a similar pleasantness and comfortable ease.

“Elephant Shell” contains the hit single “Your English is Good,” a track that was originally a non-album success of its own. It’s insanely catchy and powerfully poppy, and does a really good job of tying the bass line and keyboard melody into something you can’t get out of your head. The video’s worth a watch too — makes me miss summer.

Their latest single, “Tessellate,” also deserves it’s own mention. It’s special when you can move past hearing a song and actually feel the music, and the poetry involved — “broken hearts tessellate” (form into a mosaic) — literally gives me goose bumps.

In the band’s blog, keyboardist Graham Wright described “Elephant Shell” absolutely perfectly, in the way only an artist and creator could:

“When the party’s over, and you’re giving a ride home to the girl you have a crush on, thats when you put Elephant Shell on. Its the record that you listen to when you’re driving around town in the dark, wondering if she likes you, wondering if you should have tried to flirt more, or less.

So many of my favorite records still give me that nostalgic feeling, the feeling of falling in love with girls and with music and with life. Maybe that’s stupid. It sure looks stupid, now that I type it out. But it really is how I feel, and Elephant Shell makes me feel the same way.”