The Luyas, Too Beautiful To Work

Laura Leebove

By Laura Leebove

Managing Editor
on 02.18.11 in Reviews
Woozy, unconventional pop songs as moody as the band’s signature instrument

On their sophomore album (and debut on Dead Oceans), Montreal band the Luyas craft woozy, unconventional pop songs that are as moody as its signature instrument, a specially-designed 12-string electric zither called a Moodswinger. There's nothing cheery on Too Beautiful To Work; frontwoman Jessie Stein sings about sadness, wind blowing through trees, dreams of drowning, and being a "bad news canary." The backing is usually pretty enough to keep it from being a total downer, though: Tracks are typically founded on shaky, droning guitar lines and warped synths, juxtaposed with woodwinds, horns, strings, glockenspiels, chimes and harsh drum crashes, and, of course, the Moodswinger. For string arrangements, they enlisted friend and veteran composer Owen Pallett, who, along with Arcade Fire's Sarah Neufeld, also plays violin on the record. There's a lot going on here, and the spots where it all comes together the best are near the end of the record, in "Cold Canada" and "What Mercy Is," both accented by swelling strings and a majestic French horn.