Words like “haunting” and “atmospheric” are used all too often in music reviews, but in the case of the debut EP from Chicago duo Architecture there’s really no way around it; When We Were Young, the six-track introduction from Melissa Harris and Rebecca Scott (also known for their work in Panda Riot) is undeniably both. But unlike a great deal of dreamy, arty pop, Architecture’s music avoids the pitfall of ever fading into the background and sounding nondescript. There’s something special at work here.
One of the most ear-catching things about When We Were Young is that it sounds simultaneously dark and light, both playful and sad. For every gray-day vibe and nostalgic sentiment there is an bright, girlish vocal or sing-songy chorus to balance it out.
Opener “The Chant” sets the scene, doing just what its title promises as Harris and Scott deliver a sweetly hypnotic refrain over a dramatic beat and melody. “In the Morning” and “Tomorrow” take the light-dark combination even further; the singing and melodies have a simple, childlike innocence and memorable hooks, but all the while there’s something a bit spooky and strange creeping through. “I’m With You" is the most upbeat, optimistic offering on the EP, featuring more straightforward lyrics and a chorus that could have come straight from a '60s girl-group. In contrast, "Paper Ashes" and closing song "Empty Bones" learn toward the sadder, darker side of the Architecture spectrum; the latter is particularly affecting, beginning as a cold slow-burner before building into a lilting, acoustic-led finish that serves as a satisfying finale.
Just as they mix dark and light, the duo manage to come across as both electronic and organic. Keyboards and technology-based sounds play a significant role, but still, it wouldn't be quite right to classify Architecture in just this way. There's something very natural about the way this music is delivered, which adds a great deal to its strength.
When We Were Young is a solid, captivating introduction. Hear for yourself when Architecture holds a record release/listening party for the EP at the Whistler from 5-9 p.m. on Saturday, April 9th.
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