Seeing a song called "Mountain Home" in 2011 might suggest something more freak folk or black metal -- not to mention a later song entitled "National Parks," with all the implications of nature in unchanged repose -- but with the nervous synth shimmer and high-pitched vocals of Sarah Reynolds, it's clearer that the mountains in question might be the ones on Construction Time Again. Not that EAR PWR are specifically out to clone Depeche Mode; if anything, they're still a band of their time in the easy mix of electronic leads and acoustic percussion fills, a sense of understated if increasingly common mix and match. There's a general sprightliness in both melody and singing throughout that steers away from anything like a minimal wave revival in favor of more openly cheery and peppy sounds on songs like "Baby Houses" and the singing about a "Milky Way in my brain" on "Feel It." A song like "Melt" starts a bit like an Alphaville album track, though the breakdown sounds more like a polite nod to M.I.A. in turn (if she had only one rhythm track per song instead of several, admittedly) -- and it could well be a case where there's a little too much sugar, where the sweetness becomes an almost intentionally creepy overload or masking, a dollhouse in a Joss Whedon sense. Perhaps not for nothing does "Lake" seem like an ode to walking around such a spot with another while the reverb on the keyboard swells on the chorus seem like one could be drowning a bit in it. Meanwhile, the stately roll and fanfares of "Gypsy Blood" add a sense of rich space to the sound of the album, a little twist that contributes a lot, matched even more later by "North Carolina," which feels like it could be a superior twist on the state song or tourism board anthem, whatever it might be. The slow moves of the partnered voices on the extended verse, rising up toward the cool intoning of the title on the final chorus as the melody lines get even more insistent and grand, and similar moments on the instrumental "Geodes," show that EAR PWR have a way with the epic that doesn't feel overbearing -- not a bad spot to be in at all.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett