4 out of 5
Label: Luna Music, Mr. Whiggs Records
Produced by: ?
Yup, this is exactly the mid-step from the proto-weirdo version of shapes on debut The Great Migration and the suddenly cohesive band heard on the album after this, Bless The Headless; on Laughter Fills Our Hollow Dome, while vocalist Chris Barth’s mythed out narration is still shaping up, his integration with his group’s nervy Elephant 6 approximation is fully in sync. The lushly layered psych-tinged pop the group would hone and perfect is presented here in the album’s first third, with satisfying headphone-filling warm production and immediately swoony rhythms. With song title references to heaven and jesus, there is, indeed, a ‘looking to the skies’ sensibility; dancing recklessly and celebrating what there is to celebrate, even if the descriptions of whatever that may be are somewhat vague.
Going into the album’s mid-section, with the two part Go Somewhere Beautiful, we hit a transition: the pace slows; the compositions become more stripped down, and, frankly, less memorable.
Wherever this path ends up leading – the weed haze of Another Flooded Dream, Supermaze, and the rest of the album’s concluding tracks – it’s different from what came before, more internal, but wonderfully Shapes-y, mysterious and weird and lightly celebratory while accepting of encroaching darkness via the way riffs and sentiments bump up against raw edges.
Here and there you’ll still pick up those references that dot the Shapes’ musical landscape, from various psych-rock or college rock playbooks, and a few moments of Laughter Fills Our Hollow Dome seem to succumb to that, playing to a style instead of the unique whims of Aaron Deer, Chris Barth, et al. But before you can make any hasty judgments regarding that, the group swings back into the mixed-up magic poppy brew they’d eventually perfect on their next album.