We Built a Fire

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Although recorded in an Icelandic basement -- an environment one can only assume to be cold, cold, cold -- We Built a Fire sounds tailor-made for the spring months, where wintry weather and warmer temperatures wrestle each other for control. Living so close to the North Pole has left its mark on the band, resulting in a number of hushed, atmospheric ballads with telling titles like “Fire Dies Down” and “Cold Summer.” But there’s a sense of summery energy here, too, and both extremes seem to draw strength from one another, with the ballads thrown into a starker, homespun light against their livelier counterparts. Sindri Már Sigfússon’s voice seems to hover just above a whisper -- he’s closely miked throughout, as if these songs were tracked in a bedroom as opposed to a makeshift studio -- leaving his six bandmates to direct the dynamics of each song, either by heaping on layers of indie folk instrumentation or scaling things back to a cozy level. Repeated listens bring a number of sounds to the surface -- a hint of heartland twang, plenty of pop melodies, and an endearing messiness (evident in the half-sung, half-shouted background vocals) -- but We Built a Fire is mostly concerned with mood, which it casts during the first minute of running time.

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