The Gift

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The Gift's 2011 album, their first in five years, shows the Portuguese quartet carefully balanced between an indie rock context that the now veteran band couldn't be better suited for and various ways that the quartet tests those limits in admittedly gentle but sometimes surprising fashion. It begins with a synth bass start that could almost be a '50s jazz session but then shifts to a slow, murkily beautiful kind of surging pop, an attractive mélange building into bigger drums and orchestral swirls, a constant chorus. It's intriguing pop that is familiar but put together "wrong" in a way that doesn't quite invite immediate comparison, though the immediately following "Made for You"'s mix of late Talk Talk swoon and bright singing and electronic skittering and squelching bass provides a little more grounding. As a result, when the guitars first fully arrive on "RGB" it seems more like a surprising new addition than it might be otherwise, though said guitars can at times turn the feeling more toward the too familiar, as "My Sun" shows. Still, moments like "Mermaid Song" and the start, if not the end, of "Suit Full of Colours" seem to almost be a more explicitly indie-skewed xx, reaching for big sounds while still allowing for minimal space and echo. Meanwhile, "The Singles" finds its own place on the album, a 12-minute collage of everything from a big summery anthem that engages instead of overpowers even with the U2 guitar, chugging along sweetly, to a kind of '70s neo-pop à la Jellyfish and any number of further styles and progressions before returning back to the style of the start to hit an abrupt ending, a kind of meta-commentary on a kind of pop itself.

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