Celebrating Life

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Like many Morr Music artists, Iceland's Borko straddles the line between homespun electronic pop and post-rock deftly, combining glitchy beats, winsome melodies, and quirkier flourishes like brass and xylophone into comfortable-sounding, but never boring, music. Celebrating Life recalls the work of Borko's fellow countrymen Múm, although his tenor vocals give his music a more grounded feel than Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir's fairy tale soprano had on albums like Yesterday Was Dramatic -- Today Is OK. Borko's sound is also more wide-open and active than some of his other, more precious contemporaries, and his fondness for big rock drums and urgent guitars -- especially on the album opener "Continental Love" -- suggests a more whimsical Mogwai. Celebrating Life isn't without precedent, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Borko has a real gift for emotive melodies, especially on "Spoonstabber," which sounds like a post-rock torch song, and an equal talent for engaging arrangements; Celebrating Life's centerpiece "Sushi Stakeout" builds from watery electronics to shoegazing guitars, takes a detour into intricate prog rock, then finishes as delicate folktronica. While most of the songs follow a similar formula of beginning with small electronic structures and growing into larger, rock-dominated sounds, Borko's playfulness goes a long way towards making the album unique: the saddest-sounding song is called "Ding Dong Kingdom" and borrows from the chorus from Lionel Richie's "Hello," but none of that lessens its yearning. Best of all is "Hondo & Borko," which closes the album with an utterly joyous mix of groovy basslines and gentle brass that starts off mellow, then tips with a rollercoaster rush into bittersweet but jubilant guitars and rollicking drums as Borko lists some of the things that make life great (including drinking, ice cream, and children). It's a sweet finish to an album six years in the making.

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