Tue Apr 19 2011

Montreal’s The Luyas have thrown their hats into the crowded kitchen-sink indie ring; eclectic instrumentation both organic and manufactured defies genre tags on Too Beautiful To Work.  Most of the music has an eerie, desolate feel to it, and while there’s a lot going on, the songs never feel cluttered.  Everything is cleverly and effectively arranged, sometimes maddeningly catchy for all its quirk, but The Luyas are still a step away from the perfect synthesis of darkness and light that they could be.

If only Jessie Stein's voice dripped a little more piss and vinegar.  Her vocals usually float a great distance above the din below rather than integrate with the music.  The juxtaposition is probably a deliberate device, the forced light/heavy dynamic that is all the rage these days, but much of the album ends up feeling fluffy overall despite the oppressive, intriguing accompaniment.  Stein’s melodies aren’t generally catchy enough to break through, and they aren’t strong enough to compete with all the noise.  Let’s assume this problem isn’t what the album’s title refers to.

But when it works, it really works.  The title track is a huge success; based around a disjointed guitar melody worthy of Fripp, Stein’s voice flows in conjunction, turning a conundrum into a hook.  “Tiny Head” is also incredible, making the separation poignant; hypnotic, clattering, haunting.  “Canary” is just unsettling enough to offset Stein’s half-cute, half-bored melody, a minimalist gem at the album’s midpoint.

Too often, though, Stein is a floating head, almost a prop.  “Moodslayer” is reminiscent of CocoRosie at times, but not as weird, and at times the vocals are barely there.  “Worth Mentioning” sounds a lot like Xiu Xiu, a forceful beat with growling guitar fading in and out, and lots of other sounds creeping up on you now and then, but the vocals sound like they belong in a different song.  And final two tracks are barely a cut above filler, never achieving any emotion beyond pleasant.  The album ends with a whimper, but this band is so full of potential it’s bound to burst at some point.

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