The World Is Real

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Olympia, Washington's crew of indie pop super geniuses, Lake, have grown more sophisticated with every release. Working mostly with K Records for their better-known albums beginning with 2008's Oh, The Places We'll Go, each new record marked a shift further away from the shambling, twee-rooted approach toward a greater respect for arrangement and understated production techniques. 2011's Giving and Receiving tapped into smoother '70s radio pop influences while maintaining their homespun indie roots. Regrouping from several solo projects for 2013's The World Is Real, Lake's pop vision continues to mature, tuning in to all the elements of nuanced arrangement that made Giving and Receiving so great, but feeling somehow less restrained and more open to impulsive flair in the performances. The group manages to wrangle an enormous set of sonic reference points into the space of 11 songs with great results. "Takin' My Time" sounds as close to quiet storm/sophisti-pop soul as Lake is likely to get, riding a slinky R&B bassline augmented by sleek horns that wouldn't sound too out of place on a Sade or Blue Nile track circa 1986. Moments later, though, the band silently switch gears into the bounding "I Wish for You," a springy number somewhere between Brian Wilson's late-'60s Beach Boys experiments, Paul McCartney's cheeky early solo albums, and Broadcast's chilly, retro-leaning keyboard pop. These swirling modes of sound pop up throughout the album, with songs like the airy "Combat Culture" giving way to the Baroque '60s pop-borrowing "Composure," and leading into "In the Stubborn Eyes of a Demon," a track that channels the same soft summery organ droning that Yo La Tengo perfected on their best albums. The strength of The World Is Real is Lake's deft arrangement ability, which makes all these various styles fit together with undeniable cohesion. It's incredible to watch a band already so together grow even more seamless and bright in their pop vision with each subsequent recording, rather than just turning in a slightly different version of their last album. Lake's evolution toward pop deity status continues with The World Is Real. That the tunes here are some of their most memorable to date means something coming from a band who already had more than their share of finely crafted hooks.

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