Shapes and Sizes

Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner

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If there was any doubt that Vancouver's Shapes and Sizes could make good on the promise of their ambitious first album, that doubt is literally blown to smithereens within the first three minutes of their sophomore effort. "Alone/Alive" bursts forth from the shell of dry, scribbly acoustic guitar stummings into an all-out onslaught of celebratory yelps, stomps, and howls, proclaiming, "Tonight I feel that I'm alive/I spit, I smoke, I widen my stride." There's probably no better way to sum up the general feel of Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner -- from its lip-smacking title down to the final notes of "One, Two, Three," the band's second album is an impressive fleshing out and maturation of the ideas found in their self-titled debut. The ever-so-slightly twee pop sensibilities and the whimsical Sufjan Stevens-like orchestral fare of the first album have evolved (or devolved, take your pick) into a thrilling mess of herky-jerky, math rock/no wave/garage punk/prog rock-iness. The group dynamic has shifted as well. Split Lips finds Caila Thompson-Hannant stepping into the forefront and into her own; she's a huge force on this album, whether creeping along with a muted, warbling croon ("Geese") or sailing into high-pitched, wordless shrieks ("Highlife (I Had Been Duped)"). This isn't to say that Shapes and Sizes have abandoned their sweet side altogether. "The Taste in My Mouth" is as tender and leafy as any of the fare on the previous album; it's all lush horn arrangements, pensive banjos, and wistful vocals shot through with crackling distortion. Simply put: their debut was good, but Split Lips is better. Its immediacy and self-assuredness makes this album feel like a true starting-point for Shapes and Sizes.

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