Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lands & Peoples - Pop Guilt (2012)

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For me, Baltimore's Lands & Peoples are pretty much synonymous with great live band - my introduction to them came in the form of their Big Ugly Yellow Couch session at last year's SXSW and the bulk of their output (at least in the currently incarnation of a duo) has been predominantly live recordings. The first time I saw them was at last year's CMJ at Bigger Brush Media's Spike Hill showcase and all I could do was marvel at the intricacies of their set. The two alternate between instruments and loops seamlessly while harmonizing without missing a beat. As impressive as it was, when news of their upcoming debut album broke I was interested how the group's sound would translate to an actual studio recording.

Pop Guilt captures the very essence of the Lands & Peoples I have come to know. Though the songs are mostly brand new (their single "In Living Color" makes an appearance, as well as live staple "Ghosts"), there's the same familiar energy and the seamlessness of their live show is translated into an album of remarkable cohesion. There's no odd starts and stops - everything blends together, ebbs and flows from track to track until you're left with the fading strains of "Lullabye" and none-too-surprising urge to play the album through once again. Pop Guilt's effectiveness is greatly the result of Lands & Peoples tireless precision and wealth of musical ideas - able to suddenly switch thing up for the better mid-track ("Don't", "Restless Legs" "Stiff and Crooked"), the album is also one you can easily see them creating right in front of your eyes. It flows and while you may not be able to see each musical cog put into place, Lands & Peoples offer a sort of fearless transparency (the result of their many instrumental breaks).

Pop Guilt differs from a lot of album's coming out this year in that it's doesn't seem like it's just a collection of potential singles. Rather each track relies on the next and it's context. While I will admit that I found myself quite fond of "I Tried" and "Ghosts", they're far from the only highlights. Tropical pop jam "Sexting" and clarinet-laden ballad "Ukulele" spring instantly to mind but really I challenge you to find a single song you don't enjoy. With Pop Guilt, Beau and Caleb prove themselves a musical force to be reckoned with - able to distill their complex live format into an absolutely delightful album that avoids smoke and mirrors. On Pop Guilt, you really get to see the duo come into their own in their current incarnation and reap the benefits of their talented musical partnership. A veritable Win-Win.

Lands & Peoples' debut Pop Guilt is out March 27th but you can currently stream the album on Hype Machine. Also the album is available on limited edition vinyl on Analog Edition which comes with an instant download of the album upon pre-order. So make sure you pick it up and support a truly great band.

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