Au Verbs

While it’s not always wise to judge an album by its cover, take one look at Verbs and you just know this isn’t the same Au from a year ago. The jacket’s abstract collage of inviting reds, blues and greens stands in stark contrast to the frosty, monochrome design of the Portland collective’s self-titled debut and, more importantly, so do the sounds within. All the tension, all the harsh bleakness of Au’s maiden voyage have been left behind now, and in their place 40 minutes of blissful folk séances, tribal-tinged pop and, above all, warmth. From brass and woodwinds to a 20-plus person chorus to the proverbial kitchen sink, Luke Wyland and his group of Oregonian collaborators flood Verbs with a bombast of aural excitement, rivalling both the ecstatic extremes of the Polyphonic Spree and the back-porch psychedelia of Animal Collective’s Campfire Songs. Yet obvious comparisons aside, Wyland shows a surprising amount of depth in his asymmetrical designs, filtering welcoming left-field pop through an avant-garde lens that’s all his own. Perhaps the only difficulty with Verbs is reminding yourself that the band’s name is actually pronounced "ay you.” (Aagoo)