Though Encyclopedia is the Drums' first album since their debut to feature just the core duo of Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham, it's not a return to the happy-go-lucky sound of their early days. Instead, on their first album in three years, Graham and Pierce take even more risks than they did on their second album, Portamento. The pair holed up in a cabin in upstate New York to record Encyclopedia, which might explain the slightly crazed feel of "Magic Mountain," which between its buzzsaw guitars and Pierce's yelp, sounds more like the Pixies than anything from their previous albums. During the Drums' hiatus after Portamento, Pierce and Graham sampled different flavors of electronic pop with their respective solo projects. In particular, Graham's wistful analog synth work as Cascading Slopes informs Encyclopedia's fascination with retro keyboards on songs like the poignant album closer, "Wild Geese." As on Portamento, Pierce and Graham are still in a gloomy frame of mind, although the music that accompanies their lyrics about death, heartbreak, and emptiness comes with a shot of adrenaline that rivals the Drums' first singles: "I Can't Pretend"'s bummer-pop and the crisply catchy "There Is Nothing Left" are some of the best updates of their sound yet.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares