The Most Serene Republic

...And the Ever Expanding Universe

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Toronto is a city that seems to spawn pop groups unafraid to aim for a grand and distinctive vision, and one such band, the Most Serene Republic, has been raising its sights a bit higher with each successive trip to the recording studio. The group's fourth album, ...And the Ever Expanding Universe, feels too modest to be called epochal, but its sweep and ambition are broad enough that no other word feels quite apt. While the band features seven musicians, with help from producer Dave Newfeld, the Most Serene Republic sound like some sort of 21st century chamber orchestra on these sessions, particularly on the extended instrumental "Patternicity," and though they haven't abandoned the usual trappings of contemporary pop (cue up the lovely "Vessels of a Donor Look" for evidence), the rich tonal colors and imaginative vocal arrangements that run through most tracks are the work of a band that's moved past guitar/bass/drums/maybe a keyboard in favor of a more challenging vision. ...And the Ever Expanding Universe is tuneful, and the sweetness of the harmonies that dot many of the songs is engaging, but the swing between the breathy voices and cruelly distorted instruments on "Phi" is the work of a group not content to simply sound pretty, and the layers of instruments that interact within a selection like "Catharsis Boo" show that fun and challenging are not concepts that cancel each other out. And there's a graceful balance in the arrangements and performances that keeps this music joyous and full of wonder whether it aims for simplicity or a baroque level of detail. ...And the Ever Expanding Universe is a small wonder that easily confirms the Most Serene Republic's status as one of the most impressive acts on a Toronto pop scene that is already producing a bounty of exciting music.

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