It seems that being young and fearless is a big asset for one Mr. Dan Snaith. After dropping the excellent debut album of Please Start Breaking My Heart, he came back with a solid batch of dancier tracks on his Give'R and followed that up with even more guaranteed booty-shaking on the two-step mash of If Assholes Could Fly, This Place Would Be An Airport 12". He's spun hip-hop and just about everything else as a DJ, and so it should come as no surprise that he's jumped genre's yet again, landing headfirst into hazy psychedelic pop that had its heyday over 30 years ago.
To say that he simply created another orchestral pop album is kind of an understatement, though. After repeatedly saying that he was bored by the current state of electronic music, he went ahead and threw nearly all of it out the window, and in doing so created the ambitious Up In Flames. The title gives some indication of what you'll find on the release, as it runs only 40 minutes long, but has so many details that you'll be picking new things out still on the 20th listen.
I admittingly first heard the release after downloading it, and crappy computer speakers are no fair way to hear this album and do it justice. While the songs still hold up even on tinny little tweeters, it's only on a true hi-fi that you hear the literally thousands of individual pieces that went into the album. Opening with "I've Lived On A Dirt Road All My Life," you know it's going to be an entirely different affair, as horns and filtered vocals and birds and guitars and all kinds of other elements swirl around one another. Eventually, the percussion starts thumping, and the whole thing takes off on a velvety wave of sound and cruises through crests and valleys while never really following a traditional song structure.
Such is the great thing about the album in general. There are no real songs with a typical verse-chorus-verse structure, and songs just peak and fall at moments that feel natural and right. Horns swell, rhythms syncopate as multi-tracked drums bang on, and layers upon layers of instrumentation rushes forth like the most mad wall-of-sound production I've heard in quite some time. "Jacknuggeted" cruises through fluffy clouds of acoustic guitar and light vocals before ripping through cut-up beats and launching even further into the stratosphere towards the end while "Bijoux" opens with dueling vibraphones before lopping off into a dense singalong that sounds something like what the Beta Band might have done if they'd actually continued being ambitious with their sound.
While it's a little on the fluffy side (vocals mostly amount to nothing more than glorified "oohs" and "ahhs" most of the time), this is an album that arrives at just the right time of the year (spring) with just the right balance of sounds. It doesn't matter if you don't know the words, you can just hum and sing and smack the steering wheel and yell because it will simply fall into place on the lush tracks (although there are quieter moments as well, such as on the pretty "Crayon"). Once again, Snaith has surprised just about everyone, and Up In Flames will likely go down as one of my favorite albums of the year.