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Album Review: Givers ‘In Light’

You could be forgiven for dismissing Louisiana band Givers’ debut album as just another 2k-something indie pop effort that imitates and falls well short of the likes of Vampire Weekend and Passion Pit. After all it mostly consists of upbeat songs driven by a combination of electronic elements, handclaps, and glockenspiels, infused with a healthy dose of tropical beats and absurdly catchy hooks. But the real strength of this record and indeed this band is in their ability to rise above their influences and craft a sound all of their own.

Sure ‘In Light’ sounds a bit like Vampire Weekend at times, but it also sounds a bit like Animal Collective, a bit like Local Natives, and a bit like Ra Ra Riot. It’s unmistakably a result of the hyper-diluted indie market of the last five years, but it also transcends its context to become an amazing album all in its own right.

Opener and signature track Up Up Up is the most mindless and most infectious song on the record with furious double-percussion and a palpable sense of energy that drives the track relentlessly forward. The interplay between the two lead vocalists, Taylor Guarisco and Tiffany Lamson, is one of the constants of the album: they shift seamlessly from harmonising to singing in a call and repeat pattern, and the chemistry between her sexy rasp (sounding uncannily like Megan Washington at times) and his boyish yelp is captivating.

Givers take five band members just about as far as they can go in terms of sounding big. There are plenty of multi-part harmonies, great arrangements, and, if their live show is anything to go by, a ton of instrument swapping. At times ‘In Light’ borders on sounding a bit over-produced however. They’re clearly trying to strike a balance between raw energy and glossy indie-pop music, but it’s a fine line and sometimes they err a bit too much towards the latter.

There’s not a bad song on the record though, not a single track that feels out of place or like it doesn’t belong. Ceiling Of Plankton is a bit more of a grower, but that chorus hook is simply irresistible. Ripe gives Lamson’s voice a chance to really take prominence, and Saw You First shows the band’s softer side, albeit in just as hyperactive fashion as the rest of the album. Go Out At Night is the only song that  deviates significantly from the norm, as it takes on the appearance of a slower ballad and never really builds to that hook you’ve come accustomed to hearing on these songs. It’s a credit to the band that even when you strip away their driving percussion and upbeat tempo, they still sound absolutely great.

My only criticism of the album is that some of the songs seem a bit too long. While it’s nothing absurd, it’s at odds with the overall feeling of the album: this is hyperactive, jumpy, upbeat music and it seems a bit out of place when fairly straight-forward pop songs are consistently lasting for over five minutes.

This is a very minor complaint though. All in all ‘In Light’ is easily my favourite surprise of 2011. This is irresistibly fun music, and so long as you don’t go in expecting anything too complex, then there’s just no way this album can disappoint. There’s nothing wrong with playing pop music when you do it this well, and Givers sound just different enough from the influences that naturally threaten to overwhelm them to be truly exciting in their own right. And besides, it’s just so much fun.

It’s the soundtrack to one hell of a party.

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