When synthesizers twerp in a certain dark, robotic way, it's easy to categorize the music as retro synth pop made for muso-insiders, insiders who wish that Fad Gadget and Soft Cell were still around. Featuring members Kenny Glasgow and Jonny White, Toronto's Art Department arrived as retro and more on their debut, and they've grown even more on their sophomore release. If they were simply aping the first Depeche Mode album, Front 242's middle work, or Gary Numan crossed with Salem, then "The Hunt" wouldn't pump like Detroit techno with a goth aesthetic while the great "Cruel Intentions" with Seth Troxler is some kind of funky haunted disco house, or maybe an Erasure and Diddy collaboration remixed by Tiga. The album maintains a nocturnal and cool profile throughout, and is still spirited enough to throw the hip-hop-styled shouts and quirky lyrics about, plus "Walls" is so up and busy it sounds like Death Grips decided the world's problems are solved, everything is cool, and there's nothing left to do but party. Art Department shape all these influences into a sound that's entirely their own dream world, one where David Lynch, shoegaze, and dream pop are all touchstones, yet there's a youthful edge and their pointed, post-everything attitude is always ready to burst any pre-conceived bubbles. Dark, beautiful, and deft, Natural Selection should only be played at night, but it should be played on most nights, and maybe on some rainy, especially hazy afternoons.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries