At this point in time in the new millennium, Toronto rock might as well be considered its own subgenre. The success of the Arts & Crafts label and the group Broken Social Scene (and artists like Feist, Amy Millan, and Kevin Drew) has cemented the sound and idea of the city in the minds of indie rock fans across North America, even the world. The second full-length by the Most Serene Republic only helps to confirm that this is no fluke. Sporting intricately laid instrumental parts, none of which stay consistent throughout an entire track, anthemic, sometimes obscured or impenetrable male and female vocals, and an aggressive rhythm section, Population is a record that refuses to sit and meditate upon one particular thing for too long, instead approaching a theme (both musical and lyrical) from as many different angles as possible -- and never directly -- as if in an effort to circumscribe an idea rather than defining it tidily. In "Present of Future End," for example, dynamics rise and fall, guitars enter and exit, horns burst and fade away as singers Adrian Jewett and Emma Ditchburn trade off lines about the effects of technology on relationships. "When the talking involved mouth not hands," Jewett reminisces, while Ditchburn counters later with the sweetly melodic, singsongy "Take my voice, please do what you want with it, chose like a mouse with click." Clearly delineated verses and choruses are eschewed for rolling, sweeping phrases that, despite their occasional lack of focus, carry listeners along on the journey and are never boring. Even the instrumental selections here -- the Brazilian jazz-influenced "A Mix of Sun and Cloud," the pastoral opener "Humble Peasants," and the dramatic Italian cinema-inspired "Agenbite of Inwit" -- are engaging enough in their musical diversity that they just add to the overall ambiance of Population, that kind of caught-in-the-moment feeling you get when you realize the album's already done and you don't know where that time went. The kind of offering that proves the Most Serene Republic's place in not only Toronto rock, but in indie rock itself.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown