The problem of bands that base their sound on childish instruments and melodies is that, at some point, they have to grow up. The cute niche of indie rock, now far distant from its 90s predecessor, the twee scene, has, in recent years, become characterized by childlike instruments. Xylophones and kazoos made bands like Architecture and Helsinki. However, Architecture could only clap their hands and sing together at circle-time for so long. After relatively positive reception of their debut, Fingers Crossed, Architecture in Helsinki released a few redundant follow-ups which wore thin their welcome in the genre. After 2007’s weak Places like this, it was clear the band had to mature. With Moment Bends, the latest release from the Aussie cute-pop group, it was make or break. In all honesty, it sucks.
Perhaps the strangest novelty of Moment Bends is its instrumentation. The joyful bounce that made Architecture enjoyable to listen to is surprisingly absent for long spells on Moment Bends. Synthesizers, cold and lifeless, weigh down parts album, especially the central tracks W.O.W and Sleep Talkin’. But most importantly, you won’t find all the instruments used here in a fourth grade music classroom. The instrumentation is much less carefree, but, at the same time, shamelessly produced.
As a matter of fact, the production on this album is a huge double-edged sword. The studio effect can take credit for the surprisingly catchy hit Contact High and the euphoric instrumentation of Escapee. However, the hyper-produced, often artificial production virtually nullifies any hipster-cred that the Aussies had left. The cute-pop fans, who, to be fair, represented a massive percentage of this band’s initial success, are likely burning any Architecture in Helsinki albums they owned. Whether this abandonment of a great portion of their band’s fan base was a wise move or not is still up in the air. Architecture in Helsinki are no longer playing with recorders and recording in tiny closets; they’re trying to make it big.
However, the worst and most important change on Moment Bends is the singing. What the hell happened? Like, actually, what the hell happened? Architecture in Helsinki’s vocals have been butchered on Moment Bends. This slaughter is best characterized by the closer, B4 3D, which reeks of the singing and dancing boy bands of the early 00s. The vocals on W.O.W make Architecture in Helsinki sound like they’re rolling over and begging the radio to fuck them (to loosely quote Johnny Borrel discussing the Kooks).
Similarly to the cute-pop genre as a whole, Moment Bends’ pluses are its minuses. The lyrics are both cute and immature, the instruments are both peppy and annoying, and the vocals, well, those just suck. The overall coat of polish on the band just looks tacky in the end, and perhaps subtly hints at the lack of overall quality of the band to begin with. Moment Bends reveals that Architecture in Helsinki might just have been a one trick-pony, and a mediocre one at that. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed.
1. Desert Island
3. Contact High
5. Yr To Go
6. Sleep Talkin'
7. I Know Deep Down
9. Denial Style
10. Everything's Blue
11. B4 3D