The Polyphonic Spree

Together We're Heavy

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On the cover of Together We're Heavy, the Polyphonic Spree appear robes in every color of the rainbow instead of the snowy white garb that they used to wear, but that might be the biggest difference between this album and the band's debut, The Beginning Stages Of.... The newer album's track listing even picks up where The Beginning Stages Of... left off, beginning with "Section 11 (A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed)," and for the most part, Together We're Heavy's sonics are also a continuation. The band's sound and feel -- which recalls the sweeping symphonics of See You on the Other Side-era Mercury Rev (minus the bipolar tendencies) and the wide-eyed optimism of the Flaming Lips (but without Wayne Coyne's Willy Wonka-like mischievousness) -- remains intact as do platitude-like lyrics such as "It's the feel-good time of the day" and "keep yourself feeling brand-new." However, the changes that have been made on Together We're Heavy are small but significant. Thanks to co-producers Eric Drew Feldman and the Speekers, the album sounds more polished and elaborate than The Beginning Stages Of..., but not bigger, since the band's sound was already pretty massive. The songs' melodies are more complex, and often more restrained than they were before, particularly on the slow-building opening track and "Section 18 (Everything Starts at the Sea)," both of which are more about bathing the listener in warm, expansive sounds than verse-chorus-verse structure. Even the album's poppiest songs, like the bouncy "Section 12 (Hold Me Now)" and "Section 14 (Two Thousand Places)," don't sound quite as much like one long chorus as "Follow the Day" and "Soldier Girl" did, although nothing on this album is as immediate as either of those songs. Occasionally, as on "Section 19 (When the Fool Becomes a King)," the Polyphonic Spree still seems to want to bully its listeners into euphoria through sheer volume, but on Together We're Heavy, Tim DeLaughter and crew seem more aware that life, even in the smiley-face world they've created, isn't always rainbows and sunshine. "Section 16 (One Man's Show)" is one of their saddest songs, as well as one of their prettiest; even though it gradually gets bigger and louder, it's never bombastic. Likewise, the winsome ballads "Section 13 (Diamonds/Mild Devotion to Majesty)" and "Section 17 (Suitcase Calling)" acknowledge that life can be difficult, but remain cautiously optimistic. However, as distinctive as the band's sound is, it's not particularly varied, and two-thirds of the way through the album things may start to drag a little for those who aren't deeply indoctrinated in the ways of the Polyphonic Spree. But, for those whom the band's manifesto of boundless love, hope, and playfulness really strikes a chord, Together We're Heavy offers more uplifting, colorful psychedelic whimsy.

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