In the indie-rock canon, the Pacific Northwest gets its rep mostly from its Seattle and Olympia greats. But the best Pac-NW album of the year is just a ferry ride away from Seattle, and perhaps the short distance (and free Canadian health care) was all it took for Victoria, British Columbia,'s Shapes and Sizes to craft such a captivating love letter to the region. The quartet's self-titled debut is easy to geographically spot, from the Built to Spill-like guitar hooks in "Weekends at a Time" to the Sleater-Kinney-type grrrl-gruff on "Goldenhead." But it's much harder to pin down, as songs frequently transform and shapeshift, not spastically but tastefully; it's the best pop-rock combo of ambition and catchiness released so far this year. The opener, "Island's Gone Bad," is indie-rock's Lord of the Flies, as the soft Modest Mouse-style tune about a stranded relationship explodes into a manic-depressive, trumpet-loaded romp: "I like eating fruit out of trees when I'm with you," Caila Thompson-Hannant wails while the rest of the band chants panic beneath her beauty. The bleak horn section and minor-key flicks of guitar on "Wilderness" recall the lush melancholy of the Notwist before the song transforms into a quirky, piano-pop take on the head-bobbery of the Starlight Mints. After listening to these ten dizzying songs, you might need free Canadian health care too Shapes and Sizes could make you pass out.
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