NZCA Lines

Infinite Summer

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If NZCA Lines' sleekly poignant sound is familiar, it's understandable: Their music evokes decades of London electro-pop, from Scritti Politti to Hot Chip and Metronomy (NZCA Lines' leader, Michael Lovett, was a touring member of the latter group). Lovett distilled synth-driven heartache into a streamlined ideal on NZCA Lines' self-titled debut, but on its follow-up, he and new members Charlotte Hatherley and Sarah Jones (also of Hot Chip) go big. The band's name, which refers to the famed Peruvian geoglyphs, reflects Lovett's fascination with the mysterious and majestic, qualities that define Infinite Summer's central concept: Far in the future, Earth's sun is a red giant and with the end of the world nearing, half the population embraces destruction while the other half tries to rebuild civilization. This ambitious idea is accompanied by an ambitious sound. "Approach," which opens the album with a French spoken-word prologue and strings, announces that this is a more elaborate affair than NZCA Lines. While it sometimes feels overdone, there are moments when this maximalism conveys the scope and plight of Infinite Summer's world. Molten guitars and relentless beats borrowed from Daft Punk's ultra high-concept Interstella 5555 -- one of the album's main influences -- add thrills to "How Long Does It Take" and "Persephone Dreams," which combines steel drums and dense synths into apocalyptic party music. Despite being set in a world where people party like there's no tomorrow -- because there might not be one -- Infinite Summer sometimes sounds oddly blasé. Even though "Jessica" (a welcome showcase for Hatherley's vocals) gives the impression that something greater is at stake, interludes such as the title track and "Sunlight" convey unchanging warmth almost too well, dragging down the album's momentum. As on NZCA Lines, the best moments here focus on hooks, and finding a connection. "Chemical Is Obvious" is a catchy study in distance and longing that feels like a natural successor to "Okinawa Channels," while "Two Hearts" adds just the right amount of romance to Infinite Summer's dancefloor-ready sound. Though its highlights showcase the group's biggest strengths -- stylish melancholy, clever arrangements -- too often the album's overwrought scale ends up diminishing them. Infinite Summer's sci-fi pop blossoms under headphones, but it doesn't always live up to the promise of NZCA Lines or its concept.

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