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The Most Serene Republic's third release for the Arts & Crafts label (founded, famously, by fellow Canadians Broken Social Scene) sees the Ontario collective return with a more mature sound. Often that hints at a reduction in quality, or a manifesto to be less ambitious, but that's not the case here.
Simply put: though the blueprint remain the same - that is to say, artful but accessible, cluttered yet cohesive - you can hear immediately that the seven-piece have refined their songwriting and arranging in the months since 2007's Population. That it's also the first of their albums to be produced by long-term Broken Social Scene collaborator David Newfeld (whose other notable projects include Welsh bands Los Campesinos! and Super Furry Animals) is also worth remarking on.
Newfeld's talent as a producer lies in his ability to get the best out of busy arrangements; a useful skill when working with such a sprawling roster of musicians as The Most Serene Republic possess. That said, though the band comprises three guitarists and two vocalists (plus drums, bass, violin and trombone), they deploy their instruments with utmost dexterity and sensitivity here. They've realised that stripping things back in places only adds to the overall impact; letting the music ebb and flow where once they might have gone for the jugular.
Adrian Jewett and Emma Ditchburn's evocative harmonies are a focal point throughout, particularly on the record's poppiest cuts Heavens to Purgatory and Don't Hold Back, Feel a Little Longer - the latter of which channels the spirit of fellow North American innovators of Montreal. Their voices complement each other so perfectly that hearing either in isolation afterwards isn't quite as satisfying.
The most grandiose statement they make here, though, comes courtesy of sublime quasi-classical instrumental workout Patternicity. Clocking in at nearly six minutes, it's the album's longest track - the group deal in brevity, for the most part - but it could easily be double that and still hold this writer's interest. Like …And the Ever Expanding Universe, it's a compelling listen from a band growing in confidence and ability with each new release.