August 17, 2013

Review: Bent Shapes | Feels Weird

With this long-awaited debut full-length -- and the years of work it represents -- Boston trio Bent Shapes can lay claim to a place among the nation's preeminent indie pop bands. Although we're hard-pressed to think of a contemporary act whose work is as smart, economical and fizzing with energy, and the effort instead leads us back to the early Feelies catalog or Unrest's Imperial f.f.r.r. for meaningful analogues. Since its early days when it used the name Girlfriends, Bent Shapes has shown it can consistently construct bracing pop nuggets, and this facility has carried over from its singles and cassette releases to Feels Weird (a title, fans may recall, that almost became the band's name). Indeed, the long-player -- out Tuesday on Father/Daughter Records -- touts for its full, ephemeral 27-minute duration the potency and immediacy of a brilliant single. This is little surprise, as the majority of Feels Weird has been issued as a single or b-side or in some prior form. But no matter the reason, the collection is one of the most listenable of the year, a sort of pre-emptive Compact Snap! for one of the city's most promising combos.

​​​For as refreshingly minimalist and pointed as the album is, Bent Shapes exhibit a noteworthy range in terms of timbre and songcraft (particularly for a trio leveraging the traditional guitar/bass/drums configuration). The result is panoply of sounds emphasized by rotating lead vocal duties and variations in tension and intensity. There's the breezy pop of "Check My Vitals," the venomous scene crit of the album highlight "Brat Poison" (previously issued as the b-side to the flexi-single released right after the threesome changed its change), ​the uptempo, hip-shaking jangle of "Big Machines" and "Boys To Men," and the staccato power-pop karate chops of opener "Behead Yourself, Pt. 2." ​Evidence of the band's evolution over time can be found in the thoughtful production choices throughout the record. The nostalgic air of "Hex Maneuvers" is limned by the spectral reverb on the guitars​ in the verse, the fury of "Brat Poison" is made more potent with the application of distortion to the vocals and a storming, scalene rhythm conjured by drummer Andy Sadoway and bassist Supriya Gunda.​

Mr. Potrykus stands out as a particularly clever lyricist even in a wicked smaaaahhht town like Boston; he has an uncanny way with meter and melody that colors observations such as his assurance in the brilliantly arranged "Bites And Scratches" -- which, along with "I Was Here But I Disappear," is a new version of song first released in 2009 on a self-titled Girlfriends cassette -- that "the past, you can trust, will mess you up, but hang on to love, it'll be enough to save you somehow." Of, course, his view is not always as optimistic and congenial; indeed, our favorite moments of the record are Potrykus's biting remonstrations in the aforementioned "Brat Poison."

Father/Daughter releases Feels Weird Tuesday; the set is available as an LP (pressed to traditional sad black or bone and electric blue-colored media), CD or download, and pre-orders are being taken right here. Vinyl orders are packaged with a download code and an 11 x 17 poster. The band fetes the album tomorrow night at Great Scott in Boston with a release show that includes sets from Western Mass.-based indie rockers Potty Mouth and the telepathic fear and loathing of next-level bugcore trio Krill. We speculate this show will sell out, so you'd be wise to take the appropriate measures to ensure your intentions at entertainment are met. There are a number of tracks from Feels Weird available to stream, and we've collected embeds of most of them and posted them below. Finally, in case you missed it, we spoke to all three of the members of Bent Shapes in May to learn a little bit more about where they make the indie pop magic; read that feature right here.

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