When a band just keeps getting better and better with each release, it's easy to start expecting unrealistic things. Even after their first Self-Titled release, I somehow knew that they were a band to keep tabs on. While that first disc wasn't amazing, it had moments on it that gave me chills and marked the band in my mind as one to watch. Over the course of the past couple years (with just about one release per year), the group has quickly grown into one of my favorite bands making music today. With Goodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord Is Dead, they uppped the ante, breaking off into realms unforcasted and completely shrugging off any mentions of them being a Tortoise-clone. With last years & Yet & Yet, they got better again, and when I discovered that members of the group had a hand in both Broken Social Scene and K.C. Accidental, I wondered if they could do any wrong.
With Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn the group has created an album that pushes forth will leaps and bounds while still restraining itself at the same time. There are songs on this 9 track release that will split your head open in a good way, and easily the best work that the group has done. There are also several meandering ones that simply bide their time until the next amazing moment comes along. Maybe the easiest thing for me to say is that while Do Make Say Think has recorded the best tracks they've ever done with this release, it's still not quite their best overall.
That's not to say that the release isn't great, because it is. Some of the blame may simply be traced back to myself with the aforementioned statement of expecting unrealistic things. It's not fair to expect something and even though you aren't quite sure what that expectation is, somehow things don't match up to it when you finally hear the finished product. Simply put, I'm rambling, and this is a great album nonetheless. Broken into three 'sections' (hinted at by the album title) recorded at different times, the disc brings in everything you've come to expect from the group and more. The opening track of "Fredericia" is one of those tracks I mentioned above that will leave you swimming in joy. Opening with a pretty guitar melody over warbles of a bassline, it progresses into a medium-tempo rambler that builds slowly before a (dare I say?) funky bassline unrolls itself and horns and guitars swirl together through a digitally-processed haze before coalescing into one of the heaviest moments that the group has ever laid to tape. The whole thing saws off into quiet before building up into an even louder, frenzied ending, rivaling just about anything labelmates Godspeed You Black Emperor have done.
After a quiet bridging track, things are back full steam with "Auberge Le Mouton Noir," another guitar-driven track that marches steadily along with blinding moments of punctuation before launching into a double-time ending that again lays waste. The longer of the first three tracks are easily some of the most stunning work that the group has ever done, and although the middle, slightly slower and jazzier section is somewhat of a cooldown, it's by no means boring (especially the huge swells on the 10-minute "Outer Inner And Secret"). Just when you thought the group has gone too laid-back on the horn-filled "Ontario Plates," they come right back again with what might be their best song ever. "Horns Of A Rabbit" opens with backwards guitars before building in a huge beat and buzzing synth bassline that layers in horns and delicate guitars in subtle ways before again building to a grand explosion of controlled rock noise that again blows the album open. It all happens in 4 minutes, and it might be the most mindblowing instrumental pop track you hear all year.
The album closes out with a nod to Steve Reich (I think) on the filtered noise of "It's Gonna Rain," before closing things out with their poppiest track ever in the celebratory "Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!" Layers of bubbly keyboards wind around delicate horns and guitars before bursting into a hopscotch synth singalong that ends things on a bright note and makes you want to hear the whole damn thing all over again (just like the quiet voice at the very end of the release states). After all my worries, I guess I had nothing to worry about. Do Make Say Think are still one of the best bands out there, and if you haven't yet discovered their work, it's about time you get on it. Go. Now. And tell them I sent you.