Rating: The Black and White Years are a local outfit composed of Scott and Adrienne Butler, Landon Thompson, John Aldridge and Billy Potts that first came together in 2006. While originally a three piece, the band added on over the years to this final lineup. A mix of indie art rock and dance floor inducing tunes, Strange Figurines makes their third LP, the likes of which will have you grooving along with the group.
“Embraces,” kicks this album off with a bang. There’s a brief moment of acoustic guitar and subtle ooh’s at the opening of the song, before the beat jumps in and picks up the rhythm—this moment of repose is reminiscent of something you might find on a Cut Copy record, and the hype is just as tangible. Suddenly you’re in the song, and Scott Butler is there with you, his commanding yelp informing you loud and clear that he’d “Die for you, but only if you want [him] to.” Besides the ever-apparent detailed lyrics and catching vocals, the instrumentation also begs for your attention. Layers of drum machine beats, buzzing synthesized drones and guitars all combine to create not only a groovy, but a sonically complex tune that stirs not only your dancing shoes but your mind as well. The song ends nicely rounded to the beginning of the song, bringing a somewhat cathartic and satisfying close.
The nuances of “Embraces” are just what makes The Black and White Years’ music stand out from your average electro-pop group. Another dimension that is relatively new to this group is the female vocals of Adrienne that pop up prominently on “Just Like Old Times.” Semi-robotic, but also charmingly innocent in their quality, these vocals serve as lovely juxtaposition to Scott’s fluid power. Such a nice coupling reminds me of the vocals of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan of Stars. The title track, “Strange Figurines” is a good example of this—the vocals become the focal point at times, but are met halfway with a synth riff to combat them, giving this group balance.
My one and only real piece of criticism, while very small, is by the end of the album, if you’re not in the mood to groove, some of the electronic aspects can wear you down a bit. The result may be that your favorite tracks come from the beginning of Strange Figurines at first, but after repeated listening the latter tunes make their way into your listening queue. Enjoy these locals and the lovely album they’ve brought to you.