The Universe

The Outer Void Intrepid Sailor

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The Universe is a side project by Architecture in Helsinki's Gus Franklin, and their debut album, The Outer Void Intrepid Sailor, is a much more focused affair than that eclectic collective's sprawling albums. Seemingly highly influenced by both '70s art rock (think Hunky Dory-era David Bowie and mid-career 10cc) and more recent dream pop fabulists like Mercury Rev and Grandaddy, Franklin has created an honest-to-goodness concept album, telling the story of a solo astronaut through clever, catchy pop songs like "The Announcement" (which has the childlike feel of a classic Flaming Lips song matched to a rich melody that recalls the High Llamas) and the dreamy "Grand Central" (more akin to the ramshackle psychedelia of the Olivia Tremor Control). More engagingly tuneful than Architecture in Helsinki's own albums, with several immediately catchy choruses and excellently realized arrangements that mix orchestral influences with vintage electronic bleeps and whirs, The Outer Void Intrepid Sailor is right on the edge of over the top, but Franklin's strong melodic sense and winsome, boyish vocals keep things from tipping over into pretension.

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