In the indie-pop playground, there are several familiar faces. The Decemberists hole themselves up in the sandpit pretending to be pirates, Mates Of State sit at opposite ends as their friends run between them asking if they fancy each other, while the Arcade Fire build an elaborate Lego model of war-torn communist Russia. If you want to find Architecture In Helsinki though, look for the expectant, fidgeting bodies sitting by the window, waiting for a breaktime that they'll spend spinning around pretending to be aeroplanes. An image almost as giddily entertaining as this, their second full length, In Case We Die.
So, in case they die, Architecture In Helsinki present the collected regrets, confessions, memories and promises of its eight members, condensed into twelve tracks. It's schizophrenic, baffling, joyous and childlike all at once. 'Neverevereverdid' opens with church bells, before moving swiftly into choral harmonies, through regal brass, thunder and lightning and Scooby Doo melodrama. Curious, no? Only we're not through yet - next comes a flimsy piano line punctuated with languid tuba and distant harmonies before everything stops and rebuilds itself - the piano retunes itself, the brass section reappear and get in line, the sparse percussion ticks away in the background until a drumroll gathers speed and sends the whole band hurtling towards a final joyous playground chant ending. Twice. Did I mention we're only one song in? You aren't even given breathing space before you're thrown head first into the frivolously superb 'It'5!'. All the indie-pop hallmarks are here: handclaps, bouncing pianos, 'sha-la-la's and um, sleigh bells. All in just over two minutes.
Despite how this may read, In Case We Die never seems to knowingly plumb the depths of pop gimmickry. Sure, you'll find goofy vocals littered over _'The Cemetery' and they even succumb to what can only be described as pastoral funk on the superb 'Do The Whirlwind', not to mention a sitar solo (naturally), but tongues are rarely in cheeks; AiH exude light-hearted goodness from every pore. Where they do falter is perhaps just how many ideas they've attempted to cram inside 40 minutes, not all of them fully formed. 'In Case We Die (Parts 1-4)' doesn't sound like the miniature odyssey the name would suggest, but instead like four demos thrown together in the hope that something sticks. Similarly things seem to tail off towards the album's end, unnecessary instrumentals and all. Earlier missteps like the unfathomably fey 'Tiny Paintings' give the album a ruthlessly unbalanced feel.
Part pep rally, part school-time innocence, In Case We Die is nothing if not full of life and enthusiasm. Despite its hit and miss nature, it's a remarkably succinct effort for what is essentially a twelve-track promissory note in the event of mass indie carnage.
7Jesus Chigley's Score