Review Summary: Plus/Minus' latest effort yields an album that is more bleak, but more beautiful than their previous works.
After three LPs and three EPs, Plus/Minus have identified themselves as being a mathy electro-rock indie band. Too many adjectives for one band? You'll find many more in their discography. With "Xs On Your Eyes", Plus/Minus remakes themselves with a much more mellow album. It lacks the innovative instrumentation that really made the band up until this point, but has something their prior work does not - a real feel throughout the album. True, this is undoubtedly the bleakest of their albums, but that in itself sets it apart.
The album sets off with "Tired Eyes." And when I say "sets off", I mean it slowly begins, with xylophone, followed shortly by organ. After a few repeats, Chris Deaner's always intricate drumming kicks off with some fast-strumming guitar. Despite the fact the band is moving at a faster pace, James Baluyut's vocals are slowly lulling over in the same fashion as they were at the beginning of the song. It sounds a little different, but Plus/Minus make it work perfectly.
The next song starts just as slowly as the first. It's a slow ballad called "Snowblind." Catchy and heartfelt, songs like these are the reason Plus/Minus is often compared to Death Cab For Cutie by casual passersby. The band goes through a relatively repetitive song, carefully crafting new parts to keep your ears interested at each repeat.
Other highlights include songs such as "Unsung" - an acoustic song playing over a very simple drumbeat. Some nice composition yields a chorus featuring some nice brass that flows perfectly. "Halos" is a song that intentionally pays tribute to Yo La Tengo in the second half, which is an extremely interesting thing to hear. "The Hours You Keep" is a slow song that mixes fast-paced guitar strumming with James Baluyut's extremely catchy vocals.
The rest of the album plays through with much the same unifying tone. This is what makes the album such a satisfying listen. It seems that almost throughout the album, you'll hear a tone of organ over top of the music creating a rather bleak environment, perfect to feed your depression (or in some cases, create it). Not to say that this album is whiney... it's anything but that. Plus/Minus is too honest a band to whine in their music, and even in bleak album.
Not enough can be said about how underrated Plus/Minus has consistently been. This album is more proof that this isn't any indie-rock outfit. This is one of the better writing, more creative bands that has come out in the past few years.