+/-

Let's Build a Fire

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    8
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After a three-year hiatus following their promising second release, +/-'s third full-length, Let's Build a Fire, doesn't disappoint. The synthesizers, sampling, and reverb have been pared down to a bare minimum, and what's left is an aerodynamic set of indie rock songs that capture and enlarge on all the best elements of You Are Here. Chris Deaner, for instance, no longer plays second fiddle to a drum machine; he's been given free reign to romp all over these tracks, and it's a welcome change. James Baluyut's vocals, which at times sound practically Thom Yorke-ian, are no longer obscured behind layers and layers of dense reverb, and Patrick Ramos' guitar and backing vocals come prickling to the forefront in a satisfying way. Which isn't to say that there aren't drum machines or samples on the album -- there are, but they don't overpower the band as they did on You Are Here. The hookiest track on the album is "Steal the Blueprints" -- it's a great blend of Baluyut's clean vocals and Ramos' jumpy drums. The band doesn't stick to this, ahem, blueprint for the remainder of the album, though; as on the previous release, there's a good deal of experimentation with time signatures and negative space. "One Day You'll Be There" is shot through with riveting stops and starts, and "Leap Year," one of four songs on the album penned by Ramos, has some refreshingly jarring percussion for a love song. Alternately hormonal and studied, plaintive and aggressive, this is by far +/-'s most mature work to date.

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