Review: Everything Everything - Arc

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I can thank Lianne La Havas for introducing me to the music of Everything Everything and, as with most things I write about here, I want you all to give them your time and attention but I know this isn't going to be up everyone's alley. Jonathan Higgs' mannered falsetto can be grating. It's not accurate to describe what he does during most verses as hip hop there is a rhythmic cadence in his mad, maverick delivery. The songs are often structured and that term is used loosely as free-form chaos pop where verses skitter and shift to syncopated, stuttering rhythms.

You can spend minutes at a time put off by the voice or the noise collage but don't fall for it! They're setting you up with misdirection and just about the time you're exhausted and irritated they resolve the mayhem with layered harmonies softening Higgs' voice or break into a chorus that is almost conventional and anthemic. It's too late to turn away then; the trap has been set and they've got you.

"Cough Cough" opens the band's sophomore effort Arc and exemplifies precisely what I just described. Higgs is all over the map during the chorus and words and sounds come at you from every direction to the extent you wonder if the song has a direction. It's a lot like watching balls of mercury coalesce; it's still a formless blob when the disparate pieces unite but who doesn't love watching or in this case, hearing it happen?

"Duet" is the band's idea of a peace offering, the most accessible song on the album. It's wonderfully constructed and a soaring pop anthem that could be a hit, given the chance. Chris Martin is kicking himself right now for having not written this and Brian Eno is muttering about how he'd never let it on a Coldplay album he was producing. Higgs' voice isn't a knockoff but occasionally resembles both Martin and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, the Martin similarity most apparent in the poppier moments.

"Cough Cough" and "Duet" are the strongest offering on the album's A-side, if you will, but Arc is at it's best on the flip with the majority of the strongest material coming in the latter half. "Armourland" mixes a hip hop beat with ambient washes of danceclub synth and a soaring chorus and "This House Is Dust" is a melancholy drone with wide open space. "Radiant" bursts with bright guitars and has a hook almost as strong as "Duet." "Don't Try" returns a bit of the Martin-esque vocal sound and closes the album on a strong note with another song that balances hook and havoc.

Everything Everything can be frustrating and there are indulgent moments on Arc where it doesn't work but the songs that do are well worth the effort.