The Luyas, Animator

Matthew Fritch

By Matthew Fritch

on 10.16.12 in Reviews

Animator is a wide-ranging, huge-sounding album with a tiny, insistent voice at its center. That would be lead singer Jessie Stein, whose voice is similar to that Broadcast’s late chanteuse, Trish Keenan, but elevated to a more pinched and pixie-ish register. The Luyas, a Montreal-based band with connections to a host of aughts-wave Canadian indie artists (Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett, Bell Orchestre) don’t seem to suffer in the slightest from the relative smallness of Stein’s vocals; in fact, they work with her short, sharp expressions to create drama: At times set against a plush curtain of strings, horns, electronics and a 12-string electric zither dubbed the Moodswinger, Stein is always still the first thing you notice in the floodlights.

A collection of carefully crafted mood swings

Just as the Luyas commenced writing Animator, the band received word that a close friend had died, and certain lyrics, repeated like depressive mantras, seem to reflect the grieving process: “Dreams die, dreams die”; “I get bad, bad feelings/ I get by for days.” But Animator is open-ended enough not to be read solely as epitaph, and album is far from a funeral march. (For one, sci-fi laser-gun sounds populate “Earth Turner” to awesome and geeky effect.) The album is, however, swollen with baroque emotional pop that shades toward fellow Montreal band the Dears, as well as deft electronic washes that confirm the Luyas’ appreciation of Radiohead, In Rainbows in particular. Nowhere does the band flex its compositional muscles with more confidence than on the nearly nine-minute opener “Montuno,” which hopscotches around classical motifs and electronic beats until winding up in the neighborhood of a ’60s French pop ballad. For almost any other band, it would be an epic; for the Luyas, it’s just another carefully crafted mood swing.