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Pop Winds – Earth To Friend May 1, 2012

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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Artist: Pop Winds

Album: Earth To Friend

Release: Arbutus, 2012

Genre: Experimental

RIYD: Braids, Grimes, Majical Cloudz

Recently I’ve started watching the TV show Party Down, a Starz series starring Glee’s Jane Lynch, Parks & Recreation’s Adam Scott, Mean Girls’ Lizzy Caplan, and later Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally among other excellent actors that focuses on the tribulations of a group of starving-artist party caterers, with plenty of strong, clashing personalities and awkward encounters to go around. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after just two near-perfect seasons due to losing several of its key cast members to other shows. Like the now-classic sitcom Arrested Development did before it, the show failed commercially when it was originally aired, but has since garnered both critical praise and a cult following clamoring for more.

I bring this up not just to name-drop my love for Party Down in a seemingly unrelated album review, but more importantly because going through season two of the show knowing that there will be no more new episodes is filled with the same bittersweet sentiments that crop up in my mind all throughout Pop Winds’ second and final album, Earth To Friend. Breaking up is indeed hard to do, even if it is experienced indirectly through the dissolution of a favorite band or the discontinuation of a good show, but even harder is seeing the promise of future greatness in something that is, ironically, already doomed.

Such is the plight of Montreal experimental psych band Pop Winds’ departing gift to us loyal fans. If you’ve never listened to Pop Winds, a good place to start is with their debut, The Turquoise, which was just brilliant enough to land a spot on my top 20 albums list in 2010. The album mixed the styles found on two of my favorite releases as of late, capturing the playful energy of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and incorporating the pulsating brass instrumentals found throughout Menomena’s Mines (and then later as the basis for Colin Stetson’s work). While the first half of The Turquoise constrained itself inside the boundaries of pop songs, the more expansive second half served as a good indication of where the band was headed.

Earth To Friend is an extension of those lengthier experimental jams, with fewer traditional instruments like the horns and piano of old and instead a slew of electronic flourishes to accentuate the band’s inner eccentricities. Where The Turquoise favored relative restraint and the beauty of repetition, Earth To Friend has a predilection toward explosiveness and ecstatic dynamism. Though album opener “Phonon” is even more concise than the poppiest of songs on its predecessor, the true highlights of the album, “Sunlight”, “Sight”, and the title track, stretch their limbs and foray into vastly different territories throughout their 5+-minute lengths. In between these densely layered pieces are brief instrumental sketches that serve to connect the intricate ideas into one seamless, shape-shifting whole.

That this sophomore album excels and displays more promise than Pop Winds’ debut is made into a double-edged sword by the news that the band broke up months before its release. With only eight tracks (three of which are instrumentals) and a brief runtime of less than thirty minutes, Earth To Friend feels as if it was abandoned before its completion. The exploratory feeling of the music contained within is probably a result of that, as the unfinished songs were likely strung together last-minute in an attempt to craft a release out of the band’s last material before its imminent demise. But aside from this bitter, the album itself is remarkably sweet, and can forever be treasured on its own. Pop Winds’ two albums will remain untainted by future releases of promises potentially unfulfilled, just as Arrested Development and Party Down will remain excellent shows never reaching the inevitable stages of decline.

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