From Portland, land of third wave coffee snobbery, lesbian bookshops and free range elderly care, The Helio Sequence are back with their sixth self-titled album and first since 2012’s Negotiations. Going for 30 years has helped hone this duo into the tight, hip sound they rock. On Sub Pop records, on vinyl or CD. One for fans of Spoon and Modest Mouse.
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Their polished guitars gliding into view like the opening scene of a Portland soap opera, the Helio Sequence are one in a long lineage of indie rock bands with modest songs peaking out from behind grand soundscapes. Like Rogue Wave storming out of the gates with their sparkly “Chicago x 12”, this album will remind you of every time a new band has referenced an iconic one, or attempted to wow you through the loudness created in empty space.
“Battle Lines” is definitely how you start one of these records. Quickly conflicting ambient shifts murmur an introduction before the rhythm section comes in to kill the ambivalence. The wiped-clean vocals only add to the grandeur, a far-off voice balanced by hidden harmonies and a squealing riff worthy of the London Grammar Hall Of Fame. On “Upward Mobility”, the band suggest the influence of shoegaze romantics, using subtle pitch bends in the songs crevasses. The bracing speed gives you little time to think about the ramifications, which is the case for many of these songs: the lightning fast accusations in “Upward Mobility” are barely finished before the band drive out of a Walkmen-lite verse into a Daughter-heavy chorus.
It’s nice to see indie rock bands dipping into a few different palates, and the acoustically lead “Inconsequential Ties” sees the band step away from their epic motivations for a twee tune with an excess of tambourine. Of course, the Helio Sequence can’t resist ornamenting the song with some synths -- that’s just who they are. Their music is tall.
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