The opening moments of Ontario-based band Most Serene Republic’s latest, Populations, is a slow-building concerto tuning, fading into the delightfully complex instrumental pop tune “Humble Peasants.” Of note within the song, also emblematic of the album itself, is a delicacy not otherwise heard in Most Serene’s previous work: ethereal piano, proud horns and a driving rhythm section move the album forward into fantastic pop glory.
The album is masterful in its ability to be both musically complex while retaining an airy sense of fun that has been regular fare for Most Serene Republic. Populations is the first opportunity for the band, now bloated at seven members, to showcase new drummer Tony Nesbitt-Lakring and violinist/bassist Simon Lukasewich. Their use of string instruments is not unique to Populations, though, but the band has finally discovered a way to actually the instrument without degenerating into the traditional “gypsy rock” so commonly associated with acts featuring a violin.
Although the band now has seven members, the album still manages to feel cohesive. An interesting choice is the placement of the vocals in the songs—the vocals are nothing more than any other instrument in the album and, as such, mixed deep within the melodies found on the album. This is odd considering how layered the vocals are and the choice makes some songs seem slightly muddied because the mixing leaves the listener straining to hear the words. Though it is understandable why the band would want the vocals to be so deep into the instrumentation, it may prove a turnoff for some.
Ultimately, Populations should finally cement Most Serene Republic in the consciousness of the amorphous and always changing indie rock community. The album is beyond beautiful and manages to be a fantastic listening experience from start to end.