Imperial Teen On

Imperial Teen have been taken to the top of the mountain, shown all the possibilities that lay before them and then had to climb all the way back up from the bottom again. Their dalliance with the major labels had mixed results — a couple of well-received albums that led to some mainstream success — but now on Merge, they sound better and happier than ever. In the three years since their last album, not much has changed; their songs are still the irresistible pop confections they always were but they sound more focussed and energised than ever before. It starts off at an ungodly pace with "Ivanka‚” a lively song with every member of the band taking lead vocals at some point. The momentum doesn’t let up for long, but when it does the songs are somewhat reminiscent of early Stereolab, but without the clinical sparseness that defines that band’s studio work. Instead, there is a warmth present that comes from four voices blending with the keyboards that makes the songs sound wonderfully human. One of the things that makes On such a memorable album is the level of energy on every single song; the guitars buzz along, driving the tune, while layer upon layer of vocals are added to make a glorious noise. Yet the production is delicate enough to allow all the subtleties of the music to shine through, thanks to the hands of Anna Waronker (from That Dog) and Steven McDonald (from Redd Kross). After eight years together, Imperial Teen has come up with the best album of their career, until the next one. (Merge)