Born Ruffians' fourth studio album, 2013's Birthmarks, showcases a more mature and sonically layered sound than the stripped-down approach they took on 2010's Say It. Whereas last time they recorded the album in two weeks with Rusty Santos (Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors), on Birthmarks they worked with producer Roger Leavens (Rural Alberta Advantage) to achieve a slicker, more pop-oriented sound. The change suits lead singer/songwriter Luke LaLonde's laid-back indie crooner style quite well, even if moving toward a more mainstream sound meant that Born Ruffians have also sacrificed some of their rambling, experimental lo-fi leanings. Many of these songs are bubbly, bass-driven cuts with echo-chamber vocal harmonies, crisp, chiming guitar attacks, and fractured, dancey drum beats that seem to take aesthetic inspiration from such '80s post-punk bands as Talking Heads and Split Enz. Similarly, a lot of these songs wouldn't sound out of place next to tracks by many of the band's contemporaries, including Fleet Foxes, Foster the People, and Local Natives. To these ends, cuts like the languid leadoff single, "Needle," the stripped-down electronic funk of "Rage Flows," and the buoyant "Permanent Hesitation" showcase the band's newfound stylistic range and knack for coming up with immediately hummable melodies that stick in your head. Ultimately on Birthmarks, Born Ruffians let go of some of their punk rock ramble and hit the pop song sweet spot.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar