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The Great Migration

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Album Review

A sure-footed effort by any standard, the Impossible Shapes' ambitiously accomplished indie pop incorporates the best elements of lesser-known British Invasion bands with a less whimsical Elephant 6 sensibility. As the bare acoustic guitar strumming intro of "Howling Hearts" immediately brings to mind Elliott Smith, the creamy organ and lilting percussion that follow fit well beside the soothing organic textures of "Four-Leafed Mothers," both recalling the more pensive movements by the Small Faces. As the brainchild of the then-19-year-old Chris Barth, The Great Migration is a dynamic study in restrained pop songcraft that makes nary a misstep on any of its 13 tracks. Very subtle in the unpolished production, the lullaby-like "Change the Air" and steady-driving "Bad Dictator" sound like bookend outtakes from The Who Sell Out, with a sense of sleepy-eyed melancholy pervading throughout. The sliding guitar leads and skipping piano of "Angel Comet," eventually overtaken by freaked out Lou Reed-ish guitar solos, present the band capable of dipping into obscurity, but reluctant to do so to the detriment of the overall inertia of the music. Matching the gorgeously displaced feel of Pavement's "Father to a Sister of Thought," and almost lifting the chord progression as well, "Ambitious Dressing" is the album's emotional climax and three minutes of grandeur that few bands ever reach. But, overall, even when taking into account the veritable roll call of bands they share qualities with, the Impossible Shapes emerge with a sound largely their own. Surely an impressive accomplishment for such a young band.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Equally inspired by lo-fi indie rockers such as Guided by Voices and psychedelic popsters such as Olivia Tremor Control and Apples in Stereo, Bloomington, IN's the Impossible Shapes began playing and recording together before they were old enough to drink. The group -- which features Chris Barth, Aaron Deer, Peter King, and Jason Groth -- formed in the late '90s. Barth issued the cassette-only Compilation and Mono Fruits in 1998 on his own Impossible imprint, as well as the Impossible Shapes' debut...
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The Great Migration, The Impossible Shapes
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