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Here Comes a City

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Album Review

Essentially a companion piece to 2006's A Little Place in the Wilderness, Memphis' 2011 album Here Comes a City is a softly glowing bulb of late-afternoon melancholic-jag pop. However, where Wilderness featured track after track of classicist pop/rock, on City, Memphis expand their template of '80s jangle pop and '60s folk-rock with some atmospheric instrumental electronic tracks filtered throughout. Once again featuring the singer/songwriter duo of Torquil Campbell and Chris Dumont, the album seems almost like a concept album juxtaposing the life-affirming virtues of country life with the oppressive nature of city life. Ironically, this seems especially clear if you compare Wilderness' album cover photograph of a large metropolitan city with City's cover shot of a single bare tree clinging to a craggy mountainside. It is also notable that Here Comes a City takes title inspiration from Aussie pop icons the Go-Betweens' song of the same title off 2005's Oceans Apart. In that sense, the album may also draw some favorable comparisons to work by such similarly inclined artists as the Clientele and Teenage Fanclub. Like their contemporaries, Memphis stick to immediately catchy, endlessly evocative and personal songs that draw you in deeper with repeated listens. To these ends, we get tracks like the sparkling "Apocalypse Pop Song," in which the protagonist chooses the day the Earth will end so that he and his paramour's love will "just keep on growing, and no matter what they take away," their "love will live for one more day." Similarly, the yearning "I Want the Lights on After Dark" has a Lost in Translation-like attention to detail, including "Teddy Boys and Harajuku Girls," whose flamboyant presence seems in bittersweet contrast to the lyrics "So you go out, and you come home again, Tokyo, November 7th 6 a.m./Shibuya dawn, how quiet it is when you are alone like someone always." And it's clear that in Memphis' world-view of alienating, symmetrical city life, someone is always alone and, as in the shimmering, half-spoken electronica mood piece "Five Loops," turning to "good dope" and living in a "cave 'til we get right." Ultimately, Here Comes a City and tracks like "Apocalypse Pop Song" are about accepting the things in life you have no power to change and then trying to change your perspective just a bit — "endless highways turn to fields" — and though Memphis say it's "just a way of being here, of doing something with the fear," they've taken that fear and created a gentle pop womb you may just want to stay in until you get right.


Formed: 2002 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cana

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Torquil Campbell and Chris Dumont create the mesmerizing experimental sounds of Memphis. Dumont, a North Carolina native, met Campbell while working in New York City in the early '90s. Both had formed a band with fellow Canucks Chris Seligman, James Shaw, and Adam Marvy. The stint was short-lived, for Seligman and Campbell went on to form Stars while Shaw connected with Emily Haines for the synth pop outfit Metric. In summer 2002, while vacationing in Campbell's hometown of Vancouver, Dumont and...
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Here Comes a City, Memphis
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