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Architecture an elfin delight

Matthew Solarski | Thursday, January 13, 2005

Once-adorned pine trees lie dead on the sides of suburban roads, the snow has taken on a loathsome muddy hue, and Target is hawking “Xmas 2004” stationary at 90 percent off – yes, the holidays are over. Now the big question on everyone’s mind should of course be: what are the elves to do? Why, sing, surely! During the off-season, however, the elf who calls for another round of “Carol of the Bells” is fixing to get socked in his little elf nose. And so, the elves must venture to create new sounds, utilizing, naturally, the bevy of leftover musical instruments that never made it into Santa’s sack. While these post-yuletide confections have yet to grace the ears of a soul south of the Pole, chances are they sound a lot like Architecture in Helsinki.With elfin voices and childlike whimsy, the eight boys and girls of Architecture in Helsinki have pieced together an exceptional debut album. Each song on “Fingers Crossed” plays out like a pre-school classroom vignette starring delicate elf children, who have culled their vast imaginations for quirks and melodies sure to mollify even the most peevish of listeners. From the irresistible one-two punch of synthesizer and handclaps on the groovetastic opener “One Heavy February,” to the austere closing organ chords on “Vanishing,” this record is an absolute charmer.Architecture employ a smattering of instruments to create their inspired magi-pop, including glockenspiel, clarinet, recorder, tuba, and quite possibly several of the convoluted hybrid musical toys popular among the Whos in Whoville. The songs are relatively short and cater to those with even shorter attention spans, often consisting of several tiny “movements” within a single two-and-a-half-minute track. Architecture caps off this sugary recipe with fragile, pixie-like female vocals, and a male vocalist who is clearly the Will Ferrell among the elves, sounding more like a boy in the throes of puberty. While in certain contexts this would surely spell disaster, in the case of Architecture it gels surprisingly well.If the arrangements are somewhat childish, the lyrics are wildly precocious. In “Souvenirs,” the vocalist muses melancholically, “We’ve got souvenirs, so yesterday can’t mean too much.” The record’s centerpiece, the riotous “The Owls Go,” contains a lyrical transformation worthy of the finest wordsmiths, as “finding a replacement with a heart sedated, I’ll forget you” later morphs into “attic in a basement with a knife serrated, I’ll protect you.” A bizarre breed of elf children these are.Although their name might lead one to assume otherwise, Architecture reside far from wintry Finland-and even further from the North Pole, as it were-hailing from Australia, of all places. The octet has garnered comparisons to several of indie-pop’s finest collectives, including Belle & Sebastian and Broken Social Scene. With a brand new record set to arrive in March, Architecture in Helsinki is poised to enter the hearts of America’s youth well before they go a-caroling once more.