Review Summary: maybe we're bigger than staying in the very same placeAny Shape You Take
begins with the misdirect of the year. "17" is a deceptively straightforward indie pop tune, with a pitch-shifted vocal innocently singing lines with unnerving undertones like "this is the way I'm going to bend now that the baby's gone", it could almost be a cut from Japanese Breakfast's superb Jubilee
. But this isn't more gorgeous, cleanly produced indie pop. A few listens in, Any Shape You Take
remains enigmatically, delightfully hard to pin down.
I'm sure that's just how Indigo De Souza intended it. From the bones of its songwriting to the album title, Any Shape You Take
is largely concerned with change and metamorphosis. The album flits through sardonic Alvvays-style slacker rock, noisy feedback-driven grunge and sugary indie pop, pulling off each with aplomb but never really seeming at home in any. It's a remarkably restless and hungry 40 minutes of music, maybe bordering on scattershot, if not for one thing holding it all together.
That would be De Souza's own vocals. Put simply, she gives the best performance of the year on this album, her powerhouse voice bursting out of the seams of every song like it simply can't be contained. At one point during the bridge of "Bad Dream" she jumps between a throaty growl, wavering falsetto and Adrienne Lenker-esque scream in the space of 30 seconds. Another bridge provides the single best moment of the album by steering in the opposite direction. The exquisite "Real Pain" suddenly drops into a slow-tempo drone while De Souza repeatedly intones one word, before she gradually fades out to be replaced by the sound of, well, screams. This is no "I Know the End" style yelling coda that's winking at the audience all throughout, but truly anguished sounds of pain from a multitude of voices, layered into a haunting chorus that says more about what we've all been through these days than any lyric could. Then with a snap, it's over, and the song kicks back into its catchy uptempo hook without a hint of self-satisfaction.
Any Shape You Take
is full of moments like this, where the songs seem to stretch like elastic to accommodate De Souza's gargantuan vocal presence. The inclusion of some less memorable songs based on repetitive hooks like "Die/Cry" and "Pretty Pictures" slightly handicaps the album's first half, before "Real Pain" kicks off what's possibly the best run of indie rock this year. You may leave Indigo De Souza with any number of impressions - the tongue-in-cheek grunge rockers playing their influences, the slickly catchy indie pop potential of "17" and "Hold U", the heart-in-mouth climaxes of closing duo "Way Out" and "Kill Me", both of which can go head to head with anything on Big Thief's Two Hands
in terms of sheer raw songcraft. One thing you're sure to remember is the album's energy: frayed-wire nervous but busily excited, never fully revealing itself but brutally open-hearted, and no matter the genre, entirely unique.