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Album Review

Notable in part for being the first band (preceding Los Campesinos! and New Buffalo) signed to Broken Social Scene's Arts and Crafts label without a membership connection to the mother band, the Most Serene Republic are nonetheless a perfect musical and philosophical fit. At eight songs in just about a half hour, Phages was originally recorded as a tour souvenir EP, but the label later gave it a wider release, not least because in nearly every way, it's an enormous improvement over their somewhat tentative debut album. The addition of second vocalist and guitarist Emma Ditchburn alongside frontman Adrian Jewett changes the entire dynamic of the band's sound, for the better. With two singers, the Most Serene Republic now have the vocal capabilities to properly enhance their textured, complex dream pop. Also, it must be said that Ditchburn is simply a better singer for this band than Jewett; his wispy high-register voice isn't as freakishly ethereal as that of Sigur Rós' Jon Thor Birgisson, but it's in that ballpark, and with Ditchburn tending to favor the lower harmonies, she adds some much needed substance and ballast to the vocals. As on Underwater Cinematographer, the lyrics seem like elliptical afterthoughts to the multi-layered arrangements, and as with the vocals, the overall sound of Phages is fuller and more detailed than its predecessor, from the near-instrumental opener "Emergency Performance Art Piece" to the closing track "Stay Ups," which opens with a free jazz duet for piano and drums before downshifting into a dreamy piano ballad that slowly builds into a full-band climax featuring distorted guitar drones and sweet-and-sour horns. A transitional record that points the way towards 2007's even more opulent Population, Phages is an important point in the Most Serene Republic catalog on its own merits.


Formed: 2003 in Milton, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Hailing from the suburbs of Toronto, the Most Serene Republic features Adrian Jewett (vocals), Adam Nimmo (drums), Ryan Lenssen (keyboards), Nick Greaves (guitar), Andrew McArthur (bass), and Emma Ditchburn (vocals/guitar). The quirky indie rock sextet formed in 2003 and inked a deal with Arts & Crafts shortly thereafter, becoming the first band signed to the Toronto label that didn't include a member of Broken Social Scene. North American dates with Canadian pals Stars followed into spring 2005....
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Phages, The Most Serene Republic
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