“Humble Peasants”, the opener on “Population” is the perfect picture of hope, happiness, and all things Most Serene Republic
. Playfully epic, yet emotive and powerful it is the image of everything good in life, complete with a whistling melody and plenty of strings. The rest of the album follows suit with a pandemonium of prettiness, upbeat melodies and dense but delightful orchestrations. Lovely vocals complete the picture, making for a very enjoyable experience lacking only in, well, something.
Hailing from Milton, Ontario, Most Serene Republic’s
lineup has changed noticeably since their early days:
• Adrian Jewett – vocals, trombone
• Ryan Lenssen – piano, backup vocals
• Nick Greaves – guitar
• Emma Ditchburn – guitar, vocals
• Sean Woolven – guitar, backup vocals
• Simon Lukasewich – bass, violin
• Tony Nesbitt-Larking – drums
Unveiled on October 2, 2007, “Population” is the second studio album released by the group, preceded by “Underwater Cinematographer”, released in 2005. Between records The Most Serene Republic also released a relatively overlooked tour-only EP, “Phages”.
On “Population”, The Most Serene Republic
has been made complete. On “Underwater Cinematographer” they gave us a record showcasing only a smidgen of their potential; listening, you certainly enjoyed the number of great songs on it, but you could tell they were not fully developed as a group yet. That feeling was accentuated by the release of “Phages”, their tour-only EP, which showed us that they seemed to have figured themselves out. The next step was a record. And then there was “Population”.
Listening to the album is certainly an enjoyable experience. There’s just something specially charming, intoxicating, and delightful about listening to The Most Serene Republic
for me. Maybe it’s the vocals, the instrumentation, the drumming, I’m not sure; maybe it’s the whole package. Whatever they do, it works for me. I soak up their simple melodies like a sponge. There’s a sort of intimacy, magic in their music that is extremely satisfying. I really do love this band, and this album.
The opening track is “Humble Peasants”. An instrumental one, it is possibly my favorite, featuring whistling, pretty percussion, horns, and strings. A strength of the album is the ability of the group to constantly layer and trade between male and female vocals, like in “Compliance” and “Present of Future End”, for example. Also, simple but satisfying guitar melodies like the one featured in “Present of Future End” are key to its success. They aren’t super inspired melodies, yet they work very well. Another great track is “Battle Hymn of the Republic." Its snare filled thickly orchestrated outro is one of the highlights of the album in my opinion. The atmospheric intro of “Career In Shaping Clay” which leads into a soft yet driving verse with layered vocals is a common and welcome occurrence on “Population”. This song in particular has a dark tint to it, culminating in a sinister violin solo.
If nothing else, the album is long, 53.8 minutes long, to be exact. And actually that may be one of the few faults on the album. Not the length of the entire record as a whole, but the fact that each song feels long, stretched; some unsteady melodies are given a bit too much time, as if they are substantial when perhaps it would be better only to hear them for an abbreviated period of time. The biggest issue with “Population”, however, I believe, is that if you hoist it up and compare it to other recent albums of a similar nature, it lacks some of the flair and perhaps genius or something (call it what you want) that other bands of late possess and have displayed. You can’t really fault “Population” for lacking it, yet, to me at least, that is the missing piece that makes this record lose the ‘superb’ or maybe ‘excellent’ I’d like to give it. It certainly deserves a ‘great’.