RAC

Strangers

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RAC's Andre Allen Anjos spent the better part of a decade establishing himself as one of music's hardest-working remixers, crafting a sound that straddled the line between indie and pop with a capital P. On Strangers, his first album of original material, Anjos collaborates with many of the artists whose songs he remixed, including YACHT, Penguin Prison, and Tokyo Police Club, but his most recognizable contribution is still his playful, detailed production work. RAC's sound remains bouncy and just short of busy, dominated by breezy synths and chugging muted guitars. This distinctive-yet-homogenous approach puts Anjos' collaborators in the spotlight, and Strangers works best when the singers have enough charisma to sell this formula. The previously released singles remain highlights: "Let Go," which features MNDR and Bloc Party's Kele, is as bouncy and bittersweet as ever, and a refreshing contrast to the angular rock the band returned to on Four. "Hollywood," a collaboration with Penguin Prison's Chris Glover, has a slick, new wave vibe that evokes Julian Casablancas' solo work. Several of Strangers' newer tracks are nearly as good, particularly the collaborations with Body Language, Tegan & Sara, and Peter, Bjorn & John's Peter Moren. "Ready for It," which features St. Lucia's Jean-Philip and Patricia Beranek Grobler, feels like a 21st century update of Animotion or Human League with its fizzy synth-pop and girl-guy vocals, while the poignant "Tourist" finds Tokyo Police Club's David Monks wondering, "Are we strangers forever or are we strangers for now?" in another of the album's standouts. At other times, Strangers feels so cohesive that it borders on anonymous. Even though tracks such as the pretty piano ballad "We Belong" and the marimba-driven "Seventeen" offer some variety, the album's sameness is amplified by its length; at nearly an hour-long, songs get lost in the shuffle. At its best, Strangers is undeniably and insistently catchy; at its worst, it's a reminder that being a good remixer and a good songwriter isn't necessarily the same thing. Still, there's enough fun -- and potential -- here to make it worth hearing what RAC does next.

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