With their status as the newest band on Arts & Crafts, it seems inevitable that The Most Serene Republic will be compared to Broken Social Scene. Every other band on the label is somehow affiliated with that collective, and there's not a huge difference between You Forgot It In People
and offerings from bands like Stars
or Apostle of Hustle
, so you'd be forgiven for expecting Underwater Cinematographer
to carry on the tradition of dreamy indie-pop.
And, while it's fair to say that The Most Serene Republic do carry on the Arts & Crafts tradition of beautifully inspired indie-pop, it's not because of any ties to Broken Social Scene. TMSR aren't even from Toronto, in fact, and represent a departure from the label's usual promotion of incestuous scenesterism. Even more importantly, there's a sense of fun on Underwater Cinematographer that you wouldn't get from the majority of their ethereal, dreamy labelmates. From a few moments into "Content Was Always My Favourite Colour", when the instruments drop out and leave the polyphony of vocals with nothing but handclaps as support, you'll get the impression that music is much looser and messier for The Most Serene Republic, and that's exactly the way they like it.
Of course, it means that "serene" is possibly the last adjective you'd use to describe Underwater Cinematographer. Frontman/trombonist Adrian Jewitt may not have a pitch-perfect voice, but on songs like "The Protagonist Suddenly Realizes What He Must Do in the Middle of Downtown Traffic" and "Where Cedar Nouns and Adverbs Walk", his enthusiasm more than makes up for it, perfectly suiting the energetic, joyful nature of the music (Emma Ditchburn, who counterbalances his vocals, doesn't hurt, either). Musically, too, the band seems intent on cramming every song with as many ideas as they possibly can -- drummer Adam Nimmo regularly throws in random time signatures and whirlwind drum fills, while keyboardist Ryan Lenssen's sound is as informed by prog and classical as it is by pop.
Even with all the multi-layered cacophony, Underwater Cinematographer sounds like what you'd expect from an Arts & Crafts band (not that this is a bad thing, and it's hard to imagine the band would begrudge the attention they'll receive because of the connection). At the same time, The Most Serene Republic are more than just another A&C band -- they're joyful, they're rambunctious and they even (occasionally) rock. It's hard to imagine a band coming along this year with a better or more enjoyable debut.