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Rhythm & Views

Architecture in Helsinki

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For a band like Architecture in Helsinki, the word "unfocused" is not pejorative. So why the intense focus on Places Like This? Gone are both the stumbling looseness and pleasant vicissitudes that made 2005's In Case We Die a small gem. In their place, frontman Cameron Bird seems to have fallen head over heels for the B-52's and embraced extravagant twee gestures.

The album's overall positive feel, as Bird and Kellie Sutherland trade off vocal quirks over ebullient beats and electronics, tends to inveigle listeners. But this charm dissipates quickly, leaving a few great tunes, a handful of head-bobbers and a series of embarrassing miscues in the wake.

The disco-thump and otherworldly atmospherics of opener "Red Turned White" recapture past magic, while the ascetic restraint and subtle layering of "Heart It Races" are spacey fun. Elsewhere, "Lazy (Lazy)" allows a listless musical phrase to germinate into an ecstatic explosion of melody and distorted shouts.

Those successes, however, do not erase the awkwardness of the snappy-pop-cum-stadium-rock disaster "Nothing's Wrong," or the indulgent sugar-blasts of the maddeningly repetitive "Hold Music," to name just a couple of the problem tunes. For such a short album (10 songs, 31 minutes)--and this is the really depressing part--there is only enough impressive material for a minor EP.

The group is still a joyous sight to behold live, but future releases should stay away from places like this.

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