Immaculate Machine Fables [Mint Records]

Rating: 7.0

Maybe it’s the humidity, but Immaculate Machine’s music conjures up images of cropped-haired liberal arts girls wearing American Apparel panties and high socks dancing in dorms. It’s either erotic or infuriating, a feeling I sometimes run into with indie pop releases that are painted with pastels, keyboards, and clean guitars. But as I will say again and again, if there’s substance in the music, those imaginary theater majors can dance in my head as long as they want. The Canadian trio’s whimsical approach to tune-crafting on Fables weaves a lovely tapestry of jangly hits that stick like glue.

Dear Confessor [mp3]

Kathryn Calder of The New Pornographers lends her shimmering vocal talents to the production and although all three members share vocal duties, her contribution is the obvious focal point in most places. Her vocal duel with Brooke Gallupe on “Dear Confessor” lifts an otherwise standard lo-fi power chord romp higher and mightier. “Roman Statues” bristles with a warm sound that rolls over a stoic bassline and sparse keys. This baroque track is Calder’s show and she gives it a brisk, flowing quality that warms the senses and tickles the imagination.

Though individual moments shine out on the disc, the production would quickly fall apart without the equal input of the three creative elements. Luke Kozlowski’s drumming gives crests and troughs to the rolling waves of music, simultaneously thunderous and restrained. Gallupe can tick out pretty arpeggios just as soon as he can speak the language of feedback spirits. Throw in Calder’s evocative voice and glamorous keyboards and you’ve got a potent mixture of pop.

Though not exactly daring, Fables is nonetheless a full plate of irresistible pop hooks and quirky vision. “Small Talk” spins a sly groove over an eastern string flourish that sounds fit for a hipster rehash of Lawrence of Arabia. The refrain lights up the shivering rhythms with a dark-eyed smile. “Blinding Light” glistens like a Jane Siberry hymn, curiously lofty even over the dismal oscillation of reverberating synthesizer. “Pocket” is as heavy as Immaculate Machine gets, but still ends up twisting into the clean vocal jigs by the time the chorus rolls around. In a case when all members of a band share vocal duties with deft clarity, the towering melodies ascend in just the right way.

The band missteps at a couple points, particularly on the flourishing “C’mon Sea Legs,” which veers too close to musical theatricality for comfort. Whether or not the band intends it, it’s ultimately overwrought and ends up sounding like a Danny Elfman creation for a Tim Burton yarn or something Styx would whip up. Though catchy as all hell, it’s a guilty pleasure.

Immaculate Machine is the perfect club band, mixing personality, equality, and energy into deviously engaging music. Three albums into their career, the band delivers a shimmying good time.

-Matt Wendus

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