By now, it’s sort of a given – anything released under the auspices of Canadian label/collective Arts & Crafts is going to be pretty good. Whether it’s an album from Broken Social Scene, Stars, or any of their members’ and friends’ various solo efforts, at the very worst the music will be competently boring. But more often than not, it’s vibrant, textured, engaging, and musically rich. All of this can be said in regards to The Most Serene Republic’s third album, …And The Ever Expanding Universe, a record that bridges the gap between traditional, expansive Built to Spill-referencing indie rock and spacey Mew-style progressive experimentation.
The Most Serene Republic’s sound is twitchy and prodigious, but transitions between parts are smooth and, even at their most introspective and melancholic (“All Of One is The Other”), songs never meander for too long. From the soaring lead track (“Bubble Reputation”) onwards, vocalists Adrian Jewett and Emma Pitchburn create an interplay that is poppy and smart. In between their singing, the various members’ excellent musicianship does the talking. Waves of piano, horns, strings, and orchestral punctuation accent and enhance an instrumental song like “Patternicity,” but it’s purposeful rather than precious.
This is a band obviously infatuated with the craft of songwriting and melodic construction, but willing to bend the rules as it sees fit in order to advance beyond the expected. …And The Ever Expanding Universe may be a reference to the existential and the cosmic, but it certainly also pertains to the musical world of the album’s creators.