Memphis : Here Comes a City

<img src="" alt="Memphis : Here Comes a City" />A sort of versatility-meets-unpredictability that marks the equation at the heart of Memphis.<span>  </span> ...
Memphis : Here Comes a City
7.7 Arts & Crafts

Memphis : Here Comes a City The latest release from Montreal’s Memphis begins in the humble, elegant air of its title track.  Swooning strings, heartfelt guitar, and persistent percussion all build and blend with not-so-distant sounds from the outside world.  Traffic, people parading down some kind of grand parkway, and even the churning of a helicopter’s propeller are all layered amid the progressive pop intro, until finally, the sounds all die.  Just after that last note is struck, the aged sounding, acoustic-rooted "Apocalypse Pop Song" rides the waves, before surfing into powerfully prolific single and album standout "I Want The Lights On After Dark".  It’s this sort of versatility-meets-unpredictability that marks the equation at the heart of Memphis. 

The band is one of a growing number of side projects for Stars (QRO live review) frontman Torquil Campbell.  A Toronto native, Campbell got his start in New York City with childhood friends and future collaborators like Stars’ Chris Seligman, Metric’s (QRO live review) Jimmy Shaw, and one Chris Dumont.  After going in separate musical directions, and with a few years and countless miles between them, Campbell and Dumont reunited in Canada, where yet another collaboration would mark the start of Memphis.

Surfacing in the early 2000s, the band quickly produced two dreamy, albeit very overlooked records.  Their third effort, 2006’s A Little Place In the Wilderness would mean a Canadian breakthrough on the backs of singles "I Dreamed We Fell Apart" and "Time Away", and they look to build on that success with 2011’s Here Comes A City. 

After the lights come on during that third, very memorable track, the duo seems to fall into a bit of a haze.  Nature again crosses into music on "Five Loops", and while the results are neither endearing nor unwelcome, they are without a doubt ambivalently entrancing.  Though Here Comes a City never truly loses its misty eyed surroundings, the haze does evolve agreeably later on – "I Am The Photographer" goes so far as breathe some fresh air, while the slow, atmospheric feel of "Reservoir" is enough to lull you into peaceful serenity.

Just as the album should be winding down, Memphis very thankfully seems unwilling to fade into oblivion just yet.  Rocking bass lines and well-timed touches of steel guitar straddle Campbell’s musings on "Way Past Caring", and the song builds triumphantly to include thundering brass and pensive strings.  With that tip of the hat, Campbell and Dumont are finally content to disappear into the city lights. 

All in all, the record is likely the band’s best-unified effort so far, and while it may not be the key to Stars or Metric-esque success, the nature of the project almost forbids that in itself.

MP3 Stream: "Way Past Caring"

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